Opinion: Will Revis Remain a Jet?

Brian Bassett , TheJetsBlog.com

On Monday when we all learned that Darrelle Revis’ injury was indeed season ending, I wrote on Twitter that I foresaw this as a major impediment to the Jets doing a long term deal with Revis.

I couldn’t quite formulate it at the time, but with some time to chew on it, here’s what I meant by that.

We can agree that Revis’ contract talks with the Jets have been contentious each time.  Revis came to training camp late in 2007 as a rookie, breaking a streak for the Jets of getting their rookies into camp without controversy for many years prior.  Back in 2010 when he and the Jets created a new deal, Revis held out for almost all of training camp.  His uncle Sean Gilbert is said to be one of his most trusted advisors and he held out an entire year waiting on the right deal from the Redskins.  It would seem in contract talks, he has trusted  his uncle’s knowledge of the situation and that coupled with his agency’s longstanding feud with the Jets (Pete Kendall, Chris Baker, etc.) has made all the negotiations more vituperative.

In retrospect, the deal was was struck was Faustian for both sides.

Revis got his money up front, but sacrificed the back-end dollars which would drag down his average annual salary to near or below Nnamdi’s (at the current time) deal.  The Jets got Revis to willingly hand over his biggest hammer; the ability to hold out.  This of course was enforceable  with a three year extension at an extremely low salary.  As a concession the team agreed in return to never franchise him at the conclusion of his new four year contract, scheduled to end at the conclusion of the 2013 league year.

Now fast forward a bit.  Back around the time of the 2012 NFL Draft, only two years into Revis’ four year deal we started to hear rumblings about how Revis expected the Jets to be forthcoming with a new contract.  We heard that this current deal was viewed as a “Band-Aid,” a twist of the nose of Woody Johnson’s own words, created in the wake of the 2010 deal as a holdover until a longer term deal could be reached that would keep both sides happy.  

Revis’ camp believed that the spring of 2012 was the time to try and pull off the Band-Aid.  Reporters and fans alike were on Revis Watch right up until a few days before training camp.  Any holdout was avoided, but that seemed obvious to everyone who wasn’t in the business of selling newspapers or TV ratings.

Regardless of what reporters might have said about the notion that Revis just didn’t care about the three year extension, logic prevailed for Revis and his camp.  Holding out this summer would have removed all his leverage and essentially flushed his largest contract (the next one) down the toilet as the Jets would hold his rights through his prime years at a minimal cost.  The more sensible solution was that both sides would hammer out a deal with Revis in the time between the 2012 and 2013 seasons when the looming threat of Revis’ free agency was more real.  The Jets would get to lower their year-average to a more normalized number three years in, and they would also still retain exclusive negotiating rights.  His agents were making noise on his behalf this past spring, but it was a hollow threat and everyone involved knew it.

Why? Because the unsaid threat lay just around the corner for Revis.

If I don’t get a deal next offseason. I’m gone.

The 2012 Revis Watch was a manufactured controversy between agents and media, but it was also a valuable warning shot across Mike Tannenbaum’s bow.  The statement?  Revis was being reasonable *this* offseason, but a deal better be forthcoming *next* year – when public opinion would swing wildly back into his favor with just one year remaining.  Team Revis was being the better man now, it would be Team Tannenbaum’s turn next year.

Revis is looking at a situation where if he’s a good soldier over the next year and a half, he’s one more season away from a windfall contract on the open market.  As we saw last offseason the new CBA is driving teams to spend with the new cap floor, and Mario Williams in Buffalo is a perfect example of this.  It’s an essentially enforceable Greater Fool Theory.  My point?  Some team with an out of control owner is going to be willing to pay Revis more than the Jets and if he tests the market, I just don’t see a viable situation where he then returns to the Jets.  The competitive offers from other teams will (rightly) drive his value up and the Jets won’t be able to afford him.

Aside from losing Revis, the biggest travesty of that outcome?  Aside from a compensatory pick the following year, the Jets won’t get any substantial compensation for letting one of the best players in the game walk away.  Without the ability to franchise Revis, the Jets would have to trade Revis some time before the conclusion of the 2013 season.  While it’s unlikely, it could have potentially happened this coming offseason.

Then last Sunday happened.

No one accounted for a season-ending injury to Darrelle Revis in just the third game of the 2012 calendar.  If there’s any silver lining to the injury, it’s that Revis has plenty of time to recover from it.  His timetable is unclear right now, but even given a worst case recovery timetable, he should be a full-go by the time June OTAs come around.  Now is there any degradation in the play?  That remains to be seen.  The Jets will want to make that part of the negotiation process, and I can almost guarantee that Revis won’t like that in the least.

So, with Revis is out for the remainder of the year and the Jets will have a chance to demonstrate just how valuable (or not valuable) this one player is to this team.  In preparation for bettering their secondary and solidifying their bargaining power back in 2010, the Jets added both Antonio Cromartie (former 1st rounder) and Kyle Wilson (2010 first rounder) to, if only in some small degree, lessen the impact of a prolonged Revis holdout.  We never saw that happen back in 2010, but come January, someone is going to have more leverage for a re-worked deal, and I’m putting my money on Revis.

Many are looking to Cromartie to hold the fort in Revis’ absence, but I’m far more intrigued by what Kyle Wilson does because he’s the key to the longer term answers at the position for the team.  If Wilson can prove he’s worthy of playing the #2, that will free the Jets from Cromartie’s rather generous contract, leaving that much more room for the Jets to allocate money elsewhere.

There’s more questions than answers at this point around this issue, but the Jets have proven in the past that they like playing with fire when it comes to contracts.  I anticipate that they will do much of the same this coming offseason with Revis and with this unanticipated development, they could stand to get very badly burned.