What Will It Take for the New York Jets to Make Up with Darrelle Revis?

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What Will It Take for the New York Jets to Make Up with Darrelle Revis?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Eight.

That was the number that Rex Ryan found most interesting during a January 2010 press conference in response to Darrelle Revis losing the Defensive Player of the Year battle to Green Bay’s Charles Woodson. 

"A number that I think is interesting would be eight, and no, that's not the amount of touchdown passes that Green Bay gave up against Arizona. That is the number of touchdown passes we gave up all season at the Jets, and the biggest reason for that is Darrelle Revis.”

Revis may have lost the DPOY race after his historic 2009 campaign, but this was the peak of the now-tumultuous relationship between the Jets and Revis.

A long holdout, another championship game defeat and two consecutive non-winning seasons have left this relationship hanging by a thread.

How did it get to this point? How could a franchise that has evaded a Lombardi trophy for over 40 years stumble upon an all-timer, only to seemingly do everything they can to let him slip through their fingers?

Before we answer that question, we need to dig deeper into this complex relationship and how things went so sour so quickly.

 

The Holdout

No cornerback in the history of the game had as good of a season as Darrelle Revis in 2009. At just 24 years old, Revis single-handedly won games and shut down opposing offenses by taking away any team’s top receiver.

To put this in perspective, most top cornerbacks, such as Champ Bailey and Richard Sherman, are capable of slowing down a top receiver or shutting down a secondary target with a little help. With Revis, you can leave him alone on Calvin Johnson and be more worried about giving your safety help with covering a tight end than keeping Megatron in check.

In other words, he lets you get away with coverage schemes that are flat-out irresponsible.

If anyone knew and appreciated this, it was Rex Ryan, and he was not afraid to say it. He called Revis the “best player in football.”

And he wanted to be paid like it (and still does).

Revis also claimed that the Jets expressed an intent to redo his deal after the season, which erupted into a big misunderstanding that led to one of the most publicized holdouts in sports that lasted for the entirety of training camp, thanks in part to the Jets being on HBO’s Hard Knocks that summer.

Revis eventually came back for the start of the season, but wounds were left open.

 

Woody’s Role

Eventually, a four-year band-aid compromise was finally reached, but at a cost: Revis did not have a long-term deal on his hands, and would presumably be a free agent by his 28th birthday, at the peak of his career.

Most importantly, the relation between the Jets and Revis’ agents, Neil Schwartz and Jon Feinsod, wore thin. Mothers were insulted, embarrassing high school stories were unearthed and the all-important front office-agent relationship was left in tatters.

The whole episode wore so thin on Johnson that he is seemingly to do just about anything to avoid another holdout—including trading the Jets’ most prized commodity.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Historically, Woody Johnson has been anything but a Jerry Jones clone as a meddling owner that thinks he can build a team on his own, which is a good thing. Johnson, who inherited most of his fortune, does not even know the correct term for a false start.

This, however, has Woody’s fingerprints all over it.

Obviously, Rex Ryan wants no part in trading his best player headed into what is likely to be a “win-or-else” season for him. The initial reports of a possible trade surfaced before new GM John Idzik had a chance to find his office in Florham Park. Both denied the existence of trade talks in their combine press conference.

This is a simple case of an owner getting sick of the annual headache that is Revis’ contract, with intentions of building for the future with an allotment of draft picks, but as Johnson and the Jets will soon realize, the idea of exchanging Darrelle Revis for a future championship contender is nothing more than a red herring.

 

Building around a Cornerback?

Conventional wisdom in the NFL states that defensively, you need to build your team around a linebacker or defensive lineman, as they are at least somewhat involved in every play. After all, if you want to avoid a cornerback, all you need to do is throw away from him.

So far, this idea has worked for most of the great defenses in the NFL, but there has never been a corner to have an impact on the game that Revis has. 

Al Bello/Getty Images

The Jets have already proved to themselves that Revis can have the same or greater impact that a player like DeMarcus Ware or Von Miller has. In 2008, Revis made the Pro Bowl, but he was not playing on an other-worldly level. The Jets had their best set of defensive lineman in several years after splurging in free agency on Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins.

The Jets finished 28th in pass defense in 2008.

In 2009, during Revis’ breakout season, the Jets finished with the best pass defense in football (and best defense overall), despite having a pass rush that produced just 32 sacks on the season.

Can you build a defense around a top-end cornerback? Usually, no, but Revis is good enough to literally make the field smaller, as Rich Cimini (then of the Daily News) noted during his 2009 campaign:

Do you know how big that is for a defense? It's like playing with 12 guys. The defense can take that "extra player," who ordinarily would be doubling the No. 1 receiver, and use him to blitz the quarterback or double another player.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Besides, if cornerback is not a “premier” position, then why are they selected in the top five picks, as Patrick Peterson was in 2011?

Sure, the Jets can trade Revis for a few draft picks and get themselves a nice linebacker, but there are a handful of elite pass-rushers in the NFL today. A player like Revis comes along once in a generation.

What the Jets must realize is that no matter what they get back in a trade for Revis, nothing they can get in return will fill the void he will leave behind.

 

How much Is Revis at fault?

The Jets, specifically owner Woody Johnson, are being very narrow-minded regarding Revis’ true value and future with the team, but Revis and his camp have not done everything they can to make his contract situation as volatile as it is.

Revis started things off on the wrong foot when he held out the summer of his rookie year. He certainly deserved a raise after his 2009 season, but his handling of the fans and media have been far from perfect and have only added fuel to the fire.

He “didn’t care” what fans thought of a rumored holdout last summer, and even went after a few unruly fans on twitter:

In an age of non-guaranteed contracts in the NFL, a player has every right to hold out to get their market value while their bodies are still capable of playing at a high level. However, as much as Revis is adored by fans because of his on-field abilities, the relationship between Darrelle and those who buy his jersey has always been a bit precarious, leading to some fans taking sides against the face of the franchise.

At the same time, the notion that Darrelle does not want to stay in New York is untrue; he likes playing for Rex Ryan and enjoys the situation he is in—as long as he is eventually paid. ESPN’s Ian O’Connor told Colin Cowherd that Revis wants to be the Jets’ version of Derek Jeter. The Daily News reports that Revis has told friends that he wants to help the troubled franchise reverse course rather than go elsewhere.

Now, the question is, do the Jets want to do what it takes to lock up their Derek Jeter?

 

Beyond the Field

What the Jets must recognize is that Revis is more than a cornerback that shuts down receivers. In times where the franchise has been flat-out embarrassed from on-field results and off-field drama, Revis is one of the few beacons of excellence. When you play the Jets, it may be easy to stop Mark Sanchez, but dealing with Revis is a task no one wants to endure.

Whether it is Derek Jeter, Martin Brodeur or Eli Manning, every successful New York-area franchise has had a long-term player to be a mainstay during multiple championship runs. When you think of those teams, those players immediately pop into your head.

 

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets cannot let their version of Martin Brodeur get away from them.

When you think of the Jets, an image of a frustrated Rex Ryan or Tim Tebow probably comes to mind. That, more than anything else, is the biggest issue the Jets face moving forward.

The Jets need to make their team about excellence on the field, not causing a ruckus off it. Woody Johnson needs to realize that his Derek Jeter is slipping though his fingers.

 

Can this be fixed?

With conflicting reports coming out just about every day, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the two sides stand. On one hand, Rex Ryan would only trade Darrelle for Jim Brown, but reports surfaced today revealing that the Jets were shopping Revis at the combine, ignoring his agents.

What makes this situation so unique is that it is not like Darrelle wants to leave and go to another team that is closer to contention; he genuinely wants to stay in New York, but the Jets seem to be trying to do everything they can to prevent that from happening.

Revis is no innocent bystander in this case, but it is hard to not to blame the Jets, specifically Woody Johnson. Rex clearly wants to Revis to stay. GM John Idzik has been more reluctant to take a stance, but these talks started on Idzik’s first day on the job—he was probably more worried about dealing with North Jersey traffic for the first time than trading his team’s best player.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Under-performing players, like Nnamdi Asomougha, is the real worry when doling out big contracts.

There is no question that Revis is going to be expensive, but paying elite players does not handcuff a team from contending: overpaying for average players does. Overpaying for Nnamdi Asomugha helped get Andy Reid fired in Philadelphia, but not many are pointing to Calvin Johnson’s contract as the reason why the Lions went 4-12 last season.

The idea that the Jets are going to get an allotment of picks and a new influx of talent for one player is simply false. The Jets may get a one or two high picks, and the odds of either of them returning equal on-field production is exceptionally low. There is even a chance that each pick they get will turn out to be colossal busts.

Draft picks are like new cars: they look great in the lot, but as soon as you sign the paperwork and drive them home, their value plummets.

What will truly solve the Jets’ issues is to find the right quarterback. If the Jets are able to find their Eli Manning, they become just like one of the “contenders” that will be in the trade market for Revis.

Of course, the Jets need to be smart about how they handle Revis’ contract, should they even try to extend him. No non-quarterback is worth $20 million dollars per year, but Revis certainly deserves Mario Williams-type money in the $1 -million range. He is, after all, the best defender on the planet.

Joel Corry of the National Football Post drew up a possible solution for the Jets and Revis to solve their contract dispute. The contract is very front-loaded, but the remaining years are sustainable and would keep Revis a Jet for the remainder of his peak years. 

Chart via NationalFootballPost.com

This contract contains a clause used in contracts for Matt Ryan, JaMarcus Russell and Ndamukong Suh that would give the team the option to turn the base salary into a signing bonus, freeing up cap space. 

This is still a reconcilable situation for a number of reasons. For one, trading Revis is going to be extremely difficult with him coming off an ACL tear—unless a team is willing to make a franchise-altering gamble on Revis, the Jets are not going to get the kind of compensation they would expect until there is evidence that he is the same player as he was before.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

More importantly, there are simply more people that want Revis to be a Jet than not. It may be a struggle to get Revis to accept a deal the Jets can work with, but when a player truly wants to stay on the same team for the rest of his career and play for a coach that wants him in the building more than anyone else, anything is possible. 

Ultimately, nothing will change unless Woody Johnson realizes just how rare of a commodity Revis is to his franchise. Teams spend decades searching for homegrown all-timers that they can build around. If Johnson is willing to sacrifice everything Revis brings to the table to avoid the contract “annoyance” for a few months, then the Jets are in a lot more trouble than they we think.

Otherwise, Gang Green can adopt an old mantra they have spent decades trying to remove: “Same old Jets.”

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