Inside Team Revis and Its Motivations in Negotiating His $70 Million Jets Deal

Jason ColeNFL AnalystMarch 11, 2015

AP Images

HOLLYWOOD BEACH, Fla. — It took a strong woman to ask the biggest man the toughest question that led to Darrelle Revis returning to the New York Jets.

Jacqueline Davidson, the Jets' manager of football administration, had just agreed to the basic parameters of what would become a five-year, $70 million deal that includes $39 million fully guaranteed and $48 million over the first three years. Before Davidson could take any numbers to Jets owner Woody Johnson for approval, she had one question for Team Revis, which included Revis, agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod and, perhaps most importantly, the biggest man in the room, both literally and figuratively:

Sean Gilbert with the Panthers in 2002.
Sean Gilbert with the Panthers in 2002.Craig Jones/Getty Images

Revis' uncle and longtime adviser Sean Gilbert, the 6'5" former defensive tackle who played 11 years in the NFL and who soon hopes to lead the NFL Players Association.

Davidson asked a simple yet appropriate question.

"I know you guys," said Davidson, who drafted the language of Revis' 51-page rookie contract with the Jets in 2007, after then-GM Mike Tannenbaum negotiated it with Schwartz and Feinsod.

Davidson has seen every up and down of the Revis-Jets relationship. She has seen what it has done to the likes of Tannenbaum and his successor as general manager, John Idzik. She was wary.

"Before we go any further, this is it, right?" Davidson asked.

Schwartz chuckled, smiled and then relayed the question to his partner, Feinsod, who like Davidson was calling in to the negotiation's headquarters: a 10th-floor condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where Revis relaxed in a chaise lounge, alongside Schwartz, Gilbert and Gilbert's cousin Jimmy Moore.

Then all of the men turned to Gilbert, who sat in the corner and took it all in.

Gilbert, who passionately believes that players need to approach football as a business, slowly smiled. A twinkle came from behind his glasses as he paused for a moment.

"Tell Jackie, we're good," said Gilbert, who will be one of eight men challenging NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith for his job this weekend in an unprecedented union election. "Tell her, 'We got you. We're coming home.'"

This scene, as detailed to Bleacher Report by Moore and confirmed with other sources, captured the essence of Revis' free agency and his career.

While there were more details to haggle over during the next three hours before the deal was agreed to at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, what played out was everything Gilbert has advised his nephew to do over the years: Play with passion and maximize your value.

That combination is why despite his hard-bargaining history, teams line up for a chance to sign Revis. Revis has never taken the money and run. He has taken the money and been the best at what he does. Football people constantly fear that a player will sign a big contract and then take it easy. Through his first eight seasons, Revis has made $84 million, according to NFLPA records.

And he was driven like a demon to win a title last season in New England for Bill Belichick. That drive was obvious to everyone in the NFL.

Revis with Mark Sanchez in 2010.
Revis with Mark Sanchez in 2010.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

According to sources, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Kansas City were the most notable among a dozen teams that called about Revis, who was tempted by the idea of playing with Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger.

Finally, there was calling New England to let the team know where the situation stood. Belichick was apprised and politely declined further negotiation.

For Revis, winning is important. He twice helped lead the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, but quarterback Mark Sanchez couldn't get the Jets over the hump. In 2014, he chose the Patriots over a couple of teams that were willing to pay him the full freight of $16 million on his previous six-year, $96 million contract with Tampa Bay.

Combined with the greatness of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the Patriots, Revis got the championship ring he coveted. New England fans then expected Revis to take the usual hometown discount so many other Patriots have taken over the years.

But winning and getting paid shouldn't be mutually exclusive. NFL executives love to say, "If you win, we'll pay you." Then, after a championship, they love to say, "Won't you take less to keep winning?"

With the guidance of Gilbert, Revis has never bought that logic. At a minimum now, he will walk away from the NFL having made $123 million. If he plays out the remainder of this deal, he'll get to $154 million. He'll also play out his career in New York, a city he loves and where he might end up as a latter-day Walt Frazier.

Like the Knicks legend, Revis plays with a confidence that doesn't require talk. There's not even much flash.

On Tuesday evening, as the detail negotiation dragged on, Revis talked the least. Gilbert didn't say much either. When you're in the power position of a negotiation, there is no need to talk. Revis chuckled at his frenetic agents from time to time and waited patiently, occasionally checking Twitter to see the latest "news" being reported.

On multiple occasions, Schwartz would address the group to break down the different scenarios, and the sides jostled about how to pay the money. Revis would listen intently, and then everyone would vote on it. Beneath all of it, everyone knew how much Revis wanted to be in New York. From the vibe to the restaurants to the people, Revis loves New York. His year in Tampa Bay was nice. It wasn't electric. His season in New England was gratifying, but it was business.

Revis after the trade to Tampa Bay in 2013.
Revis after the trade to Tampa Bay in 2013.USA TODAY Sports

The Jets and New York are something special. The relationship between Revis, New York and the Jets has been complicated at its worst and glorious at its best.

Davidson has seen it all. She was there for every negotiation and every contract squabble. She was there when the team lost patience and traded Revis in 2013. She was there this past season when the Jets realized how much they needed a star player to set the tone for the organization.

Specifically, a star player who could thrive in New York. A star player who didn't get caught up in all the distractions, good and bad.

A star who understood that if you take care of business first, everything else falls into place. Revis was taught that lesson so many times by Gilbert, whether it was by running up the hills of Aliquippa or holding out for an equitable deal.

Over the weekend, Gilbert will try to convince the NFL Players Association player reps that he can do for players what he did for his nephew.

On Tuesday evening, as Revis ate a late dinner of Cuban food from a local restaurant, he looked across the table at Gilbert. In the backdrop was the sea and sky blending into vast darkness.

"Just think what's going to happen if you can do for the rest of the players what you did for me," Revis said.

Jason Cole covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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