On the surface, there is plenty of logic behind moving Revis. Coming off their worst season since 2007, the Jets need more talent on their roster. Revis is recovering from an ACL injury and the team is not going to be in contention for a Super Bowl next year—they might as well get as many draft picks as possible for him before he walks in free agency next year.
However, at a closer look, this way of thinking is nothing more than a red herring that has been passed around so much in the media that it has been accepted as undisputed fact.
The idea that the Jets must deal the best defensive player in franchise history is not only wrong—it has been called misconception in the same report (by Manish Mehta of the Daily News) that attacked the Jets’ lack of communication with Revis’ agent at the combine:
A league source said that it was a red herring to suggest that a lucrative long-term contract for Revis could cripple the Jets’ salary cap for years. A six-year contract extension, for example, with a significant signing bonus and relatively small base salaries each season, would spread the cap hits out to manageable amounts.
So, which is it? Are the Jets and media overreacting to a six-win season or can they actually improve their team by trading away their best player?
More Talent than Perceived
If you take away the quarterback position and compare the Jets’ starting roster with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the difference is not as stark as you may think. According to ProFootballFocus, the Jets boast the third-best offensive line in the NFL and a defense that was ranked eight spots higher in their unit rankings.
Of course, the Jets’ offense was tough to watch, particularly in the passing game. After losing Santonio Holmes in the first quarter of the season, Sanchez regressed with each passing week until it all climaxed on Thanksgiving night in the infamous “buttfumble” game.
When a passing game is lacking on an NFL offense, it makes a team look much worse than it truly is simply because it makes the game less “pretty” on the eyes.
Compare the Jets to a team built on a completely different philosophy, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints had the worst defense in football last year but managed to win seven games with stellar quarterback play. The Jets stumbled to six wins, despite losing their two best players within two weeks and starting a third-string quarterback in Week 16 for the sake of seeing what he could do in live action.
Both teams were equally lacking in one area of the game, but because the Jets could not move the ball through the air, they were viewed as one of the least-talented teams in the NFL.
Where the Jets are lacking in their roster is at the quarterback and skill positions, particularly with their depth. If the Jets can find a quarterback and another weapon, they can be back in the playoffs—if they keep Revis on the roster.
What Influx of Talent?
As of now, it is impossible to predict just how much they would get in a trade for Revis. Based on what the Vikings got for Percy Harvin, Revis should fetch at least a first and second-round pick.
What exactly does that buy the Jets? One of those picks could be used on another cornerback, who is guaranteed to be an inferior player to Revis. Perhaps they can use the remaining pick on a linebacker or running back, but is that truly worth the price of your franchise player?
Draft picks are to be treated like new cars; they look pretty in the lot where they go for full retail value, but once the paper is signed and the car is in your driveway, its value plummets. Nabbing a first-round pick sounds great initially, but when you compare the deal after the pick is used, it rarely works out.
Take Richard Seymour’s departure from the Patriots as an example. Even since he was traded away from the Patriots in 2009 to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick, the Patriots defense has struggled, ranking near the bottom of the league in pass defense just about every season.
Had Richard Seymour been on the 2010 Patriots roster, would they have beaten the Jets in the divisional round? Would they have stopped the Giants in the Super Bowl or the Ravens in the most recent AFC championship game? We will never know for sure, but I would bet that Bill Belichick would like to find out.
The Patriots wound up using the pick on tackle Nate Solder, who has become one of the better left tackles in the game since being drafted out of Colorado in recent years. However, finding offensive linemen for elite quarterbacks is easy business; getting All-Pro production from defensive linemen is rare.
Of course, the biggest reason the Jets are exploring a trade is because they are not interested in paying him a ludicrous amount of money, and understandably so—but paying for elite talent and getting elite production is never a problem. Teams run into financial issues when they pay for elite talent and they get average production.
The real issues with the Jets' salary cap situation can be summed up easily: They have a lot of money tied up in mediocre players (cap values via nyjetscap.com):
|Player||Position||Age||2013 Cap Hit|
David Harris was selected as the most overpaid linebacker in the NFL by PFF and it was projected that his performance was worthy of a measly $1.1 million dollars. Mark Sanchez led the league in turnovers and his starting job in now in question.
Meanwhile, the Jets have already begun to chip away at the damage by restructuring Santonio Holmes' deal on Tuesday.
Rather than let the best defensive player on the planet walk out of the building, why not just stop giving out huge contracts to mediocre players?
What Should the Jets do Instead?
In reality, all the Jets truly need is a quarterback, which is an issue that can be solved with a single draft pick.
If the Jets find themselves their version of Eli Manning or Joe Flacco, all of a sudden, their issues at receiver are not so glaring. They can get away with their average running backs and hide other holes on their roster.
The premise that you cannot build your defense around a cornerback like Revis has been thrown around like it was written in the Bible. However, no team has had its hands on a player like Revis in this modern era of pass-first football, and no one has really tried it.
In an age where teams are lining up in nickel packages more than half the time, why is a cornerback not considered an "elite" position? Why are they taken in the top-five picks every other year in the draft?
The strangest aspect of this never-ending saga is that the player never asked for a trade and truly wants to remain in New York—this is not a case of an unhappy camper in need of a change of scenery. How often do teams force Hall of Fame players out the door when they have publicly stated they want to stay?
Perhaps Manish Mehta, the writer behind much of the trade speculation, summed it up best:
Manish Mehta @MMehtaNYDN
Winning organizations don't trade away one of the best players in the sport in his prime. #nyj2013-3-2 03:21:02
Now, that is some conventional wisdom we can all agree on.
All advanced stats provided by Pro Football Focus.