Tom Brady has taken his clutch performance to another level by renegotiating his contract and saving the New England Patriots $15 million over the next two seasons. For 2013 the team is at least $19.4 million under the salary cap, with as much as $25 million to spend.
To reap maximum benefits from Brady’s latest team-friendly contract, New England needs to be aggressive with their newfound financial freedom. That means getting the best players, not just the best value. To do that, the Patriots must pursue several trade options.
The Jets’ Darrelle Revis is presumably out of the question.
Conventional wisdom dictates that New York trades him anywhere other than New England. Forking over one of the best cornerbacks of his generation to a division foe who just happens to have a glaring need at that position would not only alienate their entire fanbase, it would all but clinch another Super Bowl run for the Patriots.
The Jets, however, have never been conventional and wisdom has been in short supply in New York as of late.
With Revis’ contract expiring in 2014, it’s no secret the Jets are shopping their best player. They didn’t have any takers during the NFL combine and Revis’ torn ACL last season certainly isn’t helping their cause.
Perhaps the greatest deterrent to a team trading for Revis is the reality of losing him to free agency or paying him an obscene amount of money to extend his contract. Most NFL teams simply can’t afford to sign him, let alone take the risk of trading for him.
This is why the Patriots actually have a chance, albeit a slim one, to pull another rabbit out of the hat and land the only player who could almost single-handedly fix their biggest weakness.
They have plenty of cap room to negotiate an extension with Revis; the only question is whether they can persuade the Jets to trade him within the division.
Considering what appears thus far to be a soft market for the NFL’s best defensive back, the Jets would have to at least consider such a move if the Patriots pull a Godfather and make them an offer they can’t refuse.
In this case, that likely means trading away a first-round pick in each of the next two drafts. That sounds like a lot, but New England picks 29th overall this year and with Revis on board may very well end up picking 32nd next year.
Belichick covets draft picks like the Kardashians covet fame, but he’s shown a willingness to pony up for impact players in the past.
Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Corey Dillon all arrived in New England in exchange for picks and Belichick traded up in the first round not once but twice last year to select Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
While it would still be a shock to see Revis in New England, Brady’s new contract at least changes the scenario from impossible to improbable.
Extending Brady through 2017 also makes backup quarterback Ryan Mallett more expendable than ever.
Once considered a top QB prospect in a draft class featuring future franchise players Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton, Mallett fell into the Patriots’ laps with the 74th pick in 2011 thanks to attitude concerns and allegations of drug use.
With the dearth of quality free-agent QBs, Alex Smith no longer on the trading block and a weak draft class, he could be an enticing trade target for the Jets, who desperately need to move on from Mark Sanchez.
Of all the NFL teams with enough salary cap flexibility to afford signing Revis, New England, Miami, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Indianapolis have the most glaring need at cornerback.
Miami, Buffalo and Jacksonville are in the midst of full rebuilding efforts with numerous roster holes to fill. Factor in their high draft picks this year and likely next year as well, and it makes more sense for them to build through the draft and use their cap room in free agency.
The Colts could certainly use a player of Revis’ caliber to pair with Vontae Davis, but they too have more pressing needs, most notably running back and their defensive front seven.
Those teams have needs all over their roster and are likely several players, if not more, from being true title contenders. Only the Patriots can realistically consider Revis as the single missing piece from a championship puzzle.
That makes them the most likely to trade multiple picks for the sake of one player, even if it is a superstar.
New England is also the only one of those teams with an intriguing young QB like Mallett to help sweeten the pot for the Jets. In terms of team needs and compatible pieces, New England ironically makes a ton of sense as New York’s trade partner.
Before Brady’s extension freed up additional cap space, there was virtually zero chance of the Patriots trading the Jets enough to pry away their division rival’s best player, especially since New England likely couldn’t afford to keep him.
Now, with the Patriots able to spend more cash, Revis just became affordable enough to at least consider meeting New York’s asking price.
Brady’s extension opens the door just a crack for Revis to land in New England. If the Jets are willing to listen, the Patriots just need to decide if he’s worth the price to blow that door wide open and lay out the welcome mat.