Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has been a phenom since the Jets traded up to draft the former Pittsburgh Panther in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He's looked like a man amongst boys since becoming a full-time starter—and has already made two Pro Bowl teams in his first three seasons.
I've written about Revis's spectacular 2009 season before, and it's no surprise now that reports have come out saying the Jets have begun negotiations with Revis' agent on a contract extension that could make the young cornerback one of the highest paid players in the NFL.
Revis is only scheduled to make $1 million in 2010, a bargain for a player widely regarded as the best defender in the NFL. But unlike most players who would play Diva about not getting a better deal (even holding out in training camp)—Revis has taken it all in stride.
“They came to me after the season,” Revis said. “There were talks about them not wanting me to play for a million dollars. They’re trying to renegotiate. We’ll see."
Revis's comments come one day after fellow All-Pro teammate Nick Mangold admitted that he'd like a long-term deal to stay with the team as well.
There's no doubt that in a perfect world, the Jets would love to sign lucrative extensions with many of their young stars (like Revis, Mangold, David Harris, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, to name a few). However, even in an uncapped year, it's very difficult for NFL teams to work around the current collective bargaining agreement that's set to expire after the 2010 season.
"Love the team, love the area, but you see how many people they have to get done," Mangold said. "It should be interesting to see how it all plays out."
The current CBA includes a clause known as the "30-percent rule," which in layman's terms means that players are not allowed to get anything more than a 30 percent raise in base salary from the previous year.
The problem is that players like Revis, Mangold, and Harris are looking for bigger money than that, and rightly so. The players the Jets are most likely to extend are the ones who have greatly exceeded their current rookie contracts. (Mangold and Ferguson were 2006 draftees; Revis and Harris, 2007.)
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has a knack for finding creative ways to get things done. The Jets were handcuffed this past offseason with the "final eight" and "final four" rules that prevented them from signing any unrestricted free agents until they lost one of their own.
Tannenbaum instead swung a few deals through the trade market, acquiring Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes for draft picks, while also recouping draft picks by trading away veterans Kerry Rhodes and Leon Washington.
The San Francisco 49ers figured out a way around the 30-percent rule when they extended star linebacker Patrick Willis with a five-year $50 million deal. Because the 30-percent rule only applies to base salary, the 49ers are paying some of the big money in signing bonuses that comply with the rule while also allowing Willis to get the contract he deserves.
Revis, to his credit, is not too worried just yet.
"Me and Nick have talked," Revis said. "Nick wants to get something done as well. This dude is the best center in the league. He deserves what he deserves. I deserve what I deserve. David [Harris] deserves what he deserves. … It’s just a matter of time when everything works out and everybody will be happy.”
With a potential lockout looming following this season, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Jets wait until a new CBA is in place before locking up their young studs. However, the Jets players are not so quick to forget about Leon Washington, who might be the poster child for what the worst case scenario is for veteran players looking for a long-term deal.
Washington, a former fourth-rounder, outplayed his rookie deal and looked to get long-term stability. Instead of getting a deal done, Washington played the 2009 season under the assumption that his pay day was coming in 2010. He suffered a brutal leg injury midway through the year, which cost him his season and likely the big contract he wanted when he was traded to Seattle on draft day.
Mangold is optimistic that the Jets will pay him handsomely when the time is right. After the Jets fortified the offensive line by drafting tackle/guard Vladimir Ducasse in the second-round, Mangold came away with the impression that the importance of the offensive line play is not lost on the men in charge.
"It gives you a sense that the organization realizes that offensive linemen are the engine that runs the car," he said.
The Jets set a franchise record for rushing yards last year, and will likely keep the core of that line together. Mangold and Ferguson are probably set to be Jets for awhile, it's just a matter of time. Just like the top-ranked rushing offense, the leader of the top-ranked pass defense feels the same way.
“I’m not worried. I’m okay. My life is good,” Revis said. “This is something we have to go through. We’ll see and wait it out or whatever. We can’t control some things. You just got to go with the punches until everything gets cleared up.”
For the team's sake, the players's sake, and the fan's sake, let's hope this core group with Super Bowl aspirations stays together for the long haul.
(For more Mets, Jets and Nets analysis, visit my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog)