Darrelle Revis may not be the final piece to a championship puzzle for the New York Jets like he was for the New England Patriots, but that doesn't mean he can't be worth every penny of the reported five-year, $70 million contract he signed to rejoin the team that drafted him.
That's a lot of money for any player, but "a lot" is not the same as "too much."
For starters, the Jets had to spend "a lot" in order to reach the salary floor this year and avoid a penalty. Teams have to spend 89 percent of the salary cap from 2013-2016, and the Jets were at 81.2 percent before free agency opened, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. That's part of the reason why they had roughly $45 million in salary-cap space entering the offseason, according to OverTheCap.com.
So, while the Jets can blame former general manager John Idzik's bargain-bin free-agency strategy for the team's relative lack of success over the past two seasons, they can thank him for affording the Jets an opportunity to spend big on a proven commodity.
|Revis contract details|
|Year||Base salary (guaranteed)||Cap number|
The $39 million guaranteed in the first three years of his contract may seem "too much" for a soon-to-be 30-year-old cornerback, but it's much easier to spend that kind of money when there's no top-dollar franchise quarterback to pay. Sure, the Jets may rather have their cake and eat it too, but if you can't have one, you might as well have the other.
Speaking of having one and the other, pairing Revis with his old running mate Antonio Cromartie—who signed with the Jets on Thursday, according to Connor Hughes of About Sports—gives head coach Todd Bowles the duo he needs to run his defense. Adding Buster Skrine into the mix as a slot cornerback expands the options even further.
Bowles wasn't going to successfully run his aggressive scheme with Dee Milliner, Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams and Dexter McDougle as his primary cornerbacks. Those four are nice pieces on the depth chart, but they are far less trustworthy than a transcendent talent like Revis.
|Jets 2015 cornerback depth chart|
Trust is hard to earn, but it's harder to earn back once you've lost it. Cromartie and Milliner both lost it at times in 2013, with both men getting their turns sitting on the bench—though Milliner more than Cromartie.
Cromartie earned that trust back with a Pro Bowl performance in 2014; according to ProFootballFocus.com, he allowed fewer touchdowns, had more interceptions and more pass breakups on fewer passes thrown his direction than one of the best corners in the game in teammate Patrick Peterson.
Milliner may not have a chance to earn trust back, though. His struggles in Ryan's scheme in his rookie season of 2013 cannot be forgotten, but they could be forgiven if he comes back strong from a ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his 2014 season six weeks in.
Who knows if he'll even have the opportunity, though; according to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, Milliner may not even be able to participate in football activities "until early summer." Even when he returns, he may not like the view from the bottom of the depth chart. He'll be competing with Skrine, Walls and McDougle for snaps in the slot, and the slot is not exactly Milliner's strong suit.
It may seem like an unwieldy weight to carry for a former first-round pick who is not even in the starting lineup, but no one's even sure he would be ready for the starting lineup even without Revis and Cromartie back in the fold.
Bowles' scheme often puts its corners in one-on-one matchups on their own islands without help—that was true of Rex Ryan's scheme, and it's also true of Todd Bowles' scheme. If you're going to have an All-Pro shutdown cornerback on one side of the field, you'd better have a formidable No. 2 cornerback on the opposite side—since he will probably have a gigantic bull's-eye on the back of his jersey.
But that bull's-eye will be much harder to hit this time around than it was the last time Revis and Cromartie were paired together in New York. The reason for that is a defensive line that consists of dominant players in Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison who can all control the line of scrimmage and attack the backfield.
Adding a solid edge-rusher—whether it's a free agent or a draft pick—could be the final piece that completes the Jets defense; either way, they have most of the pieces in place for one of the best Jets defenses in recent memory—which is saying quite a bit.
But as mentioned above, Revis is not the finishing piece to the championship puzzle.
That would be a quarterback. Who is that quarterback? Probably not Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been erratic enough throughout his career that his status as a journeyman is justified. Just when it looked like he'd found a home in Buffalo, his play took a turn for the worse and he was unceremoniously cut following the 2012 season.
Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was the play-caller who made a $60 million man out of Fitzpatrick in 2011, so it's possible that reigniting the old flame could lead to brighter days for the Jets offense, but they can't leave it to chance. They must find the quarterback of the future sooner than later.
Which means the Jets are in basically the same position now as they were when Revis left New York the last time around.
The names have all changed since Revis hung around, but those Super Bowl dreams have remained and they've turned around. Welcome back, Revis.