When the New York Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April, they probably felt some relief knowing Antonio Cromartie would be stepping into Revis' old spot as the No. 1 cornerback on the roster.
As it turns out, receivers had an easier time getting out of "Alcrotraz" than they did getting off "Revis Island." Cromartie has struggled this year, and on performance alone, the Jets have every reason to cut him.
One problem: The Jets are in a bind with Cromartie's contract—a contract that counts for $14.98 million against the cap and which would result in $5.48 million in dead money on the salary cap next season, according to Spotrac.
For that one problem, there seems to be only two solutions: either eat the dead money, or...
Antonio Cromartie said he would "definitely" be open to restructuring his contract. "This is where I want to retire." #nyj— Seth Walder (@SethWalderNYDN) December 26, 2013
If Cromartie is truly willing to renegotiate his contract and make it a more fair price for a 29-year-old cornerback of diminishing talents, he would probably end up making around $5 million per year. That's around the price range of what several solid cornerbacks (Aqib Talib of the Patriots, Brent Grimes of the Dolphins, Sean Smith of the Chiefs, to name a few) were paid this past offseason.
Bleacher Report Jets featured columnist Ryan Alfieri thinks Cromartie may have begun his decline for any number of reasons:
There is no way to tell whether Cromartie will ever be the same player; after all, he could be hiding an injury that will be healed by next season. On the other hand, he could have diminished skills and physical traits that he will never get back.
For those reasons and others, although Cromartie may not like the sound of it, a one-year deal may be in the best interest of both parties. This way, if Cromartie's play improves, he can look forward to getting paid next year, whereas if his decline continues, the Jets can move on without repercussions.
As of late, the repercussions of having him on the field have been severe.
Antonio Cromartie is allowing 20.5 yards per reception this season. That's up from 12.8 in 2012.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 19, 2013
That number is down to 19.5 now, but regardless, the numbers do not speak well of Cromartie this year. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Cromartie has allowed a completion on 53 percent of throws into his coverage this year, up from 46 percent in 2012. He has also allowed seven touchdowns, after allowing five in 2012.
Cromartie's passer rating against in 2012 was 69.7. This year? That number has skyrocketed to 102.5.
He's been battling a hip injury that could be part of the reason for his decline, and he recently conceded that he may need surgery this offseason, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. If the surgery helps, he could return to form quickly. It would be easier to have faith in his ability to bounce back if he weren't approaching the point of no return, as he will be turning 30 on April 15.
If Cromartie is willing to make his contract more palatable, he may be given the opportunity to retire with the Jets, as he desires. If his sharp decline continues, though, that retirement may come sooner than later.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.