The unusual contract Revis signed in 2010 makes his cap hit very low in 2013, makes his value to any NFL team extremely high in the short-term and makes him hard to extend beyond 2014. It is natural and necessary for the Jets to at least consider the option of a trade, especially with the added factor that Revis is coming off of a major ACL tear.
Nevertheless, barring an unexpected and phenomenal trade offer, the Jets should resist the urge to trade their franchise player. As I have argued in the past, Revis is not only the Jets' best player, he is the most dominant player with respect to his position in the NFL. No other player in the NFL—with the possible exception of J.J. Watt—is so far beyond all of his peers at his position.
The reason historically great players are rarely traded is that it is almost impossible in the NFL to get enough back in return to make it worthwhile. You cannot expect an elite player in return, and a great player like Revis would not have quite the same value for any other team that he does for his own. The Jets have a unique defense that has been designed around his unique skill set.
Even if the Jets ask for as many as two first-round picks, as has been suggested, it is unlikely that either pick would result in a franchise-changing player like Revis. The Jets organization will have to find a contract that works for both them and Revis or become a weaker team as the result of a trade.
New general manager John Idzik has other options at his disposal. Here are four moves he could make instead of trading away his best player to strengthen the franchise while maintaining a viable cap situation.
The first thing for the Jets to do is to trim some fat from their roster. They have several older players with fat contracts containing little guaranteed money. Those guys can be cut with minimal cap hits.
The Jets have $31 million in cap space that can easily come off the books right away through player releases. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Jason Smith and Eric Smith should all be getting released without much second thought. None of these players brings significant value to the team at this point.
Several million can further be saved for the cap by not re-signing free agents Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller. The running back and tight end respectively would both require sizable contracts but do not bring a whole lot to the table with regards to creating a successful offense.
In an ideal world, the Jets would also find a way to shed quarterback Mark Sanchez's contract, but that would require a willing trade partner.
In either case, the money that can be saved through the release of these players is significantly more than it would take to sign Revis. He would certainly expect to be the highest paid cornerback ever, but that kind of money is still less than elite players at other positions are able to make.
The most obvious move for the Jets to make this offseason rather than trading Darrelle Revis is to trade their other starting cornerback—Antonio Cromartie.
Buy low and sell high, right?
Well, Cromartie's stock is sky high right now—higher than it will ever be again—due to a tremendously undeserved Pro Bowl bid. Based on the complete 2012 rankings at Pro Football Focus, Cromartie was barely a top-15 cornerback.
Cromartie has a style that lends itself to being overrated. He is extremely aggressive and reckless, resulting in highlight plays as well as a lot of blown coverages. He makes nice plays here and there but gives up touchdowns and catches at rates far higher than even the rookie version of Revis ever did.
On the other hand, Revis' stock is currently low. He is recovering from a knee injury, and the generally negative coverage of the Jets has diminished the perception of his greatness. Revis is the best defensive player in the NFL, but his trade value is unlikely to mirror that fact currently.
Given the combination of these two situations, Cromartie's trade value on the market might be a significant fraction of Revis' value. If that is the case, it is a no-brainer to trade Cromartie and keep Revis. Revis is a true game-changer who can turn around a season. Cromartie is at best an above-average corner who teams do not have to gameplan around.
With Cromartie set to make over $9 million in 2013, he is not quite as expensive as Revis will be down the road, but he is dollar-for-dollar a far less valuable player. The Jets should trade him now while his name is hot. It will probably never be this hot again.
Right tackle Jason Smith is set to earn $12 million in 2013, and none of it is guaranteed. Considering how below average of a tackle he is, cutting him is the clear way to go. There is no cap hit, and all that money (almost as much as Revis will ask for) can be saved.
In his place, the Jets should seek a moderate quality veteran starter at right tackle who can be signed to a relatively cheap contract. Sebastian Vollmer will be hitting free agency this offseason and might be an option to consider, but there are several others.
Ryan Clady and Andre Smith will also be unrestricted free agents and might be worth considering. An average right tackle could take the place of starter Austin Howard and help shore up an otherwise decent offensive line, which includes three former Pro Bowlers.
Re-signing starting right guard Brandon Moore to a modest contract would help to further stabilize the offensive line for 2013 and beyond.
Having Nick Mangold at center— arguably the best center in the NFL—goes a long way toward anchoring the line. As long as the pieces around him are decent, the line will be a strong unit.
A great way to save money this offseason would be to not re-sign free safety LaRon Landry. Several factors have turned Landry into one of the most overrated players in the NFL in terms of fan awareness and the beliefs of casual fans.
The two biggest factors were the move to the New York market and the injury to Darrelle Revis. The result is that Landry's price tag in free agency is going to be much higher than what he is worth.
Last year, Landry was a great pickup by the Jets. Coming off an injury and vastly underrated, the Jets signed him to a low-cost one-year deal.
Now with his first Pro Bowl appearance this season, Landry's stock is rising at just the right time for him to cash in.
The problem with having Landry at free safety is that he lacks several key skills and is injury prone. He is better as a run-stuffing pseudo-linebacker role than in coverage. In fact, he was beaten far too many times in coverage this past season.
The folks at Pro Football Focus have Landry as the No. 55-ranked safety in the NFL, grading out as an average safety in pass coverage. Note that he is average for all safeties, whereas free safeties should be above average when compared to strong safeties.
With fewer pass deflections than missed tackles, one could easily argue that Landry has gotten worse this season, rather than better. The reality is that he has stayed about the same. He is worth the veteran's minimum but not much more.
Looking out at the free-agency market, the Jets should be able to find a reasonable safety replacement for the veteran's minimum or slightly more.
New general manager John Idzik will probably make hundreds of moves in his new role with the Jets. He certainly did in Seattle with the Seahawks. Making moves is fine, and there is plenty of room for the Jets' current roster to improve.
However, trading away Darrelle Revis—their best player indisputably—is not a necessity. Trading away Revis now while his stock is down for as little as a few draft picks would be hasty and would likely hurt the team's chances at success in the near future.
These four options and many others will present themselves to Idzik as free agency opens up. And let us not forget the draft. Hopefully for Jets fans Idzik will find a better option than giving away his best player for pennies on the dollar.