For the second offseason in a row, cornerback Darrelle Revis is a topic of pre-draft trade conversation. Unlike a year ago where moving on from the New York Jets was the right move for both team and player, the best outcome this time is for Revis to suit up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another season.
There are reasons for this idea, which CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora first reported on Feb. 25, to get a little consideration.
Revis signed a six-year, $96 million contract with the Bucs that’s spread out evenly until 2018. If Tampa Bay wants Revis it has to pay $16 million per year. But none of that money is guaranteed. As soon as Revis is off the Bucs’ books, it would free up $16 million in cap space.
There’s also a new head coach and general manager in Tampa, and Lovie Smith brings with him a history of running a Tampa 2 defense, a scheme that utilizes zone coverage in the secondary. Revis thrives and is best suited for man coverage—on an island all by himself.
As soon as Smith was hired as head coach, the obvious question swirled around about how Revis would be used. A zone cover scheme would not be the best idea. Examine Revis’ 2013 season like Cian Fahey of Pre-Snap Reads did, and you’ll see that former head coach Greg Schiano floundered around last season misusing Revis.
The fact that Darrelle Revis only had 171 total qualifying plays in 16 games of football reflects how poor of a coach Greg Schiano was. Schiano blatantly didn’t understand what makes Revis a special player. If he had put Revis in man coverage more often and played him on an island, Revis would have had less success individually, but the defense as a whole would have been much better off.
Revis already went through a season of being used improperly, if Smith was going to trot one of the best cornerbacks in the league out into a zone coverage scheme, it made sense for the Bucs to consider dealing Revis and getting value instead of pushing a square peg into a round hole.
But Smith is a smart coach and knows Revis is a special player that needs to be properly utilized.
According to Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune, Smith plans on playing a man coverage scheme. That means that Revis, who was both being used incorrectly and adjusting to life in the NFL after a major knee injury in 2013, is finally going to get to do what he does best.
Revis Island is back.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Revis was the No. 2 cover corner in the NFL last season, right behind Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman. Imagine what Revis will be able to do in 2014 when he’s back out on that island.
Even though Revis could have an enormously better season in 2014, and be a huge piece for this team returning to winning ways, there’s still the matter, however, of teams calling on the Bucs.
Rick Stroud, of the Tampa Bay Times, reported that Tampa Bay isn’t shopping Revis, but the phone is ringing. Who might be calling on new general manager Jason Licht?
Any team that feels it is one piece away from a Super Bowl and has the means to move some financial pieces around to clear $16 million on cap space would love to have Revis. The Denver Broncos come to mind immediately. Denver was just in the Super Bowl and remains close to a return trip. Revis could help the Broncos defense get off the field quicker, allowing quarterback Peyton Manning even more time to work.
The New England Patriots are also a team that could be poised to make a run at a championship. With cornerback Aqib Talib about to hit free agency, the Patriots would love to bring Revis back to the cold-weather of the Northeast and into the AFC East again.
There are some real obstacles for Tampa Bay in trading Revis. Sure it would free up some cap space, but the Bucs gave up two draft picks last season for Revis, a 2013 first-rounder and a 2014 third-round pick that could turn into a fourth-round pick if Tampa Bay deals Revis prior to March 13.
If the Bucs were able to get the Broncos or Patriots to offer the same deal the Jets forced from Tampa Bay (a first- and third-round pick), and that’s a big if, the compensation still wouldn't be as much as Tampa Bay gave up.
The first-round pick Tampa Bay gave New York was the No. 13 pick overall last year. If the Bucs got a first-round pick from New England, it would be the No. 29 overall pick. The Broncos pick is even worse at No. 31. The difference between the value of the 13th pick and the 29th or 31st is massive.
Tampa Bay would be forced to ask for just a little more in return. Instead of a future third-round pick like the Bucs gave the Jets, maybe Tampa Bay would ask for a second-rounder. It’s possible the Bucs might even ask for more since they aren’t really shopping Revis.
The eventual shopping tag might be too much for Denver or New England. A first- and second-round pick for Revis, and the fact that whatever team traded for him would have to pay his $16 million salary, might keep any deal from being done.
And that’s just fine for the Bucs.
Revis was brought to Tampa Bay to fix an extremely bad secondary. The Bucs finished dead last in 2012 after giving up 4,758 passing yards. It was Tecmo Bowl easy to throw on Tampa Bay prior to Revis’ arrival. With Revis in town—even though he wasn’t used properly—Tampa Bay shaved off 20 percent of those passing yards and finished ranked 17th in the league against the pass.
If 2014 is going to be even better for Revis and the Bucs’ secondary, the best move for Tampa Bay is to keep him in Pewter.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.