Have We Seen the Last of Darrelle Revis in the NFL?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 6, 2017

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2016, file photo, New York Jets' Darrelle Revis warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in East Rutherford, N.J. Revis openly acknowledges that he is no longer the incredibly dominant player he was just a few years ago, when he routinely shut down opposing wide receivers on a weekly basis. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Within hours of becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2014, superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis signed a lucrative one-year contract with the New England Patriots. The very next year, hours after that contract expired, Revis signed a massive new deal with the New York Jets.  

Revis was, at that point, in higher demand than all but a few players in the NFL, and he took full advantage by betting on himself with a series of expensive short-term contracts. And it paid off—Revis made more than $118 million during the first 10 years of his career. 

But everything changed in the last seven months. The second season of Revis' most recent stint with the Jets was the worst of his professional football career, leading to his release in March. And now a combination of potential factors—he allowed a 104.2 passer rating in coverage (per Pro Football Focus), he'll be 32 in July and he played a role in a Pittsburgh street brawl in February—have moved Revis to the NFL's free-agent back burner. 

Revis has been unemployed for nearly three months. And for most of that stretch, there hasn't been a peep about him in media reports. No reported interest from anybody. 

A league spokesperson clarified to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini last month that Revis would not be disciplined for the Pittsburgh incident. Yet Cimini reported, based on interviews with officials from four different teams, that "the consensus is there's no market for Revis because of a significant decline last season and whispers about his commitment."

Those whispers can't help, and Revis isn't doing anything to quell the rumors. Addressing reporters in March outside of a courtroom in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh fight, he did state—per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala (h/t NFL.com's Conor Orr)—that "the hunger is definitely there." 

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But he hasn't been heard from since. 

Bleacher Report reached out to Revis through several of his representatives but did not receive responses. Per Cimini, as of May 22, Revis' longtime trainer, Will Sullivan, hadn't heard from him since September, despite the fact Revis had spent every offseason of his career training under Sullivan at the Fischer Institute in Phoenix.

Two weeks have passed, and Williams says he still hasn't been contacted by Revis, who has changed his phone number. 

"He's done," a Revis confidant told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News in November. "If he had his way, he'd be done right now. He doesn't want to play anymore. He's made a lot of money."

It's worth noting that Revis admitted this season that his body was "breaking down."

"I can still play. It's just, I'm breaking down," he said in October, per Newsday's Kimberley A. Martin. "I'm 31. How many corners are 31 right now in the league? The league's getting younger. I know [Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence] Newman's still playing [at 38], which is impressive. But I don't know how he's doing it."

Is that decline taking place at an accelerated rate? Newman might be an anomaly, but a 33-year-old Brent Grimes was graded by PFF as the top cornerback in football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, and Adam Jones (also 33) earned strong grades while starting all 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals. 

But Revis hit a wall abruptly. Just look at the regular and advanced numbers. 

The rapid decline of Darrelle Revis
YearPFF grade (rank)Opp. comp.% (rank)Opp. rating (rank)Picks
201320.2 (1)54.0 (26)81.4 (38)2
201419.8 (3)51.9 (11)72.6 (13)2
20155.3 (31)46.5 (1)56.5 (3)5
20160.1 (63)66.7 (87)104.2 (91)1
Pro Football Focus

Revis isn't the first NFL player to drop off a cliff at or near the age of 30, but it's hard to find star corners who have followed similar paths.

There are eight cornerbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played their entire careers after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. All of them played beyond the age of 35 and all of them made at least one Pro Bowl at or beyond the age of 32. 

Age when they last made a Pro Bowl
CornerbackLast Pro Bowl seasonLast season
Mel Blount3335
Darrell Green3742
Mike Haynes3336
Ronnie Lott3235
Deion Sanders3238
Aeneas Williams3536
Rod Woodson*3738
Pro Football Reference

(*Rod Woodson had his last Pro Bowl season as a cornerback at the age of 31, but he went on to become an All-Pro safety in his mid- and late-30s.)

Revis isn't a lock for the Hall of Fame, but he's a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a four-time first-team All-Pro. He was certainly on that track when he turned 30 just months after helping lead the Patriots to a championship. 

But he made the Pro Bowl one last time as a 30-year-old with the Jets, and then everything hit the fan. 

Of course, plenty of running backs have suffered the same fate, but it's hard to even find elite-but-non-Hall of Fame corners who declined as suddenly as Revis. 

Will Revis become another Lester Hayes, who made five consecutive Pro Bowls in his late 20s with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders but failed to do so at 30 and 31 before retiring? Asante Samuel made four consecutive Pro Bowls in his 20s with the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles but was no longer a star by 31 and was out of football at 32. Chris McAlister made three Pro Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens in his 20s, but his last good season came at the age of 29, and he retired at 32. 

Is that what the league thinks is happening to Revis? 

There could be more to it than that. 

Brandon Carr is only 10 months younger, plays the same position, has a weaker resume and is coming off a season that was no better than Revis' on paper. But he signed a four-year, $23.5 million contract with the Ravens in March. That deal guaranteed Carr just $4 million, though, and Revis technically has no incentive to accept a contract like that. 

The Jets still owe him $6 million in guaranteed money for 2017, but Gang Green will only be on the hook for that amount if Revis doesn't sign elsewhere. The offset language in the contract requires the Jets to cover the difference between Revis' new salary and that $6 million debt, which means he would essentially be playing for free if he were to sign somewhere else for $6 million or less. 

He isn't likely to get a deal worth more than that at this point, and we know he's a businessman. He's held out for two long stretches in his career, and he's been a football mercenary for the last half-decade.

Is it possible Revis would be willing to sit out the entirety of the 2017 season for $6 million, rest up and attempt a comeback at either corner or safety in 2018? By then, a man who already admits his struggles are related to age would be one year older. And aside from some minor nagging injuries, he was healthy last season. That strategy would make more sense if he had something to rehabilitate. 

Playing now—even for free—might give Revis his best chance at making even more money in 2018 and beyond. But even if that's his mindset, there's little evidence anybody is interested as summer approaches. Put it all together and it's possible we've seen the last of Darrelle Revis in the NFL. 

     

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.