There are four things the Jets could do with Darrelle Revis.
Option 1: Trade him before the draft to the team (not in the AFC East or in New York) willing to offer the most.
Option 2: Trade him during the five-month period after the draft but before the trading deadline, under the assumption that Revis will be able to fetch more in return once he is healthy and playing at his old level (assumption #2). [Update: As pointed out to me on twitter, the Jets will also incur the $9M penalty discussed in Option 3 if Revis is traded after June 1st.]
Option 3: Have Revis play out his contract, and then watch him sign with another team in the off-season (or enter a bidding war and try to win Revis on the open market). In return, the Jets will receive a compensatory draft pick, roughly the 100th pick in the 2015 draft. And, since Revis was given an $18M bonus on a six-year deal in 2011 — a deal that Revis has the option of voiding after this season — the Jets will also incur a nine million dollar cap penalty in 2014.
Option 4: Re-sign Revis to a mega deal now. The Jets will get a slight discount off the enormous contract Revis would get on the open market based on the questions about his knee and the fact that he’s due to make “only” $9M in 2012.
Option 3 is an option in name only. The Jets biggest salary cap problems exist only for this season, but the team will incur a $4.8M charge on the 2014 cap when they cut Mark Sanchez and another $2.5M when they release Santonio Holmes (and, likely, a $2M charge by releasing David Harris). Of course, that doesn’t address the fact that there are only four players on the roster likely to start on offense in 2014. But even without the cap charge, option 3 is the least attractive because the Jets aren’t in a “win now” mode, so a one-year rental of Revis only to lose him for a pick two years later makes no sense. Don’t you think the Dolphins wished they had traded Jake Long this time last year?
Option 2 sounds better in theory than in does in reality. For starters, there’s the real risk that Revis either has a setback or struggles early on in his comeback, which means the Jets will have to accept pennies on the dollar for him or find themselves in Option 3. The hope with Option 2 is that a team might emulate the desperate Raiders, who traded a first and second round pick for Carson Palmer once Jason Campbell was lost for the season in 2011. But that’s unrealistic to expect: in reality, the Jets will severely limit the number of potential Revis suitors to only those teams who (1) desperately need a cornerback, (2) see themselves in a championship window, and (3) are willing to negotiate one of the largest contracts in history during the season. And if teams will trade for him without the guarantee of a contract extension, the value New York will receive drops significantly. Under no circumstances is Option 2 prudent or desirable, but the Jets could conceivably find themselves there if Options 1 and 4 don’t work out.
New York has come under fire in the media for many legitimate reasons, but the team is backed into a corner if they don’t want to let Revis walk as a free agent. It’s unknown exactly how much Revis is demanding, but there is no reason to think it’s anything less than, at a minimum, the largest contract any defensive back has ever received. More likely, he’s shooting for the contract the Bills gave Mario Williams, a six-year deal worth potentially $100M and including $50M guaranteed. Revis can argue that he’s a better player, although he’s slightly older than Williams was at the time (ironically, Williams was also coming off surgery). Revis might ask for $51M in guaranteed money on a seven-year deal, which would probably be in the $110M range.
If the Jets signed him to that contract, would the reaction be favorable? The team would be “keeping” its star player, and the deal could be structure so that the team minimized the cap hit in 2013. But Revis would have a cap number north of $16M for much of the life of the contract. That’s the part that scares Woody Johnson, John Idzik, and the Jets, and the feeling is the team doesn’t want to pay a cornerback that much money.
Thus, we land in Option 1, explaining why the Jets are looking to unload Revis before the draft. But what can the Jets receive in return for Revis? If the best offer is a first and a conditional second round pick in 2014, is that enough? My feeling would be yes: you would have significant cap savings and two players at reasonable deals for the next four to five years. What the Jets do with the cap savings is the devil in the details, but the team has so many holes that one player isn’t going to fix the mess the team is in on both sides of the ball.
But what if the Jets don’t get that offer? Once the 49ers, Falcons, or Bucs (or other team out there) begin negotiations with Revis and realize the astronomical money he’s demanding — money he would likely receive on the open market, but that’s not where he currently is — their offer to the Jets might decrease. What does Idzik do if the best offer drops below anything reasonable — say, a high second rounder this year and a third next? At that point, the team is stuck in a corner: they can either resign Revis to the megadeal or land themselves in Option 2.
I do think one thing is lost in this discussion. Many Jets fans are strongly in the trade-Revis camp, as they believe that building a team around a cornerback is silly. There’s a sense that no cornerback in the world is worth $16M a year, and the Jets would be fools to pay Revis that money. There may be something to that, but the Jets don’t have a whole lot of options when it comes to how to build the team. Spending $20M on a quarterback like Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan might be preferable, but that’s not exactly an option. Once you’re dealt a hand, you have to play the cards you hold. The Lions and Cardinals are paying absurd amounts of money to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, while the Vikings and Titans are doing the same with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. In an ideal, fictional world, sure, you don’t want to build a team around a wide receiver or running back. But once you have these elite players, building around them might be the best option.
And for the Jets, it’s not like they’re going to also be spending tens of millions of dollars on a quarterback anytime soon. The likely starter in 2014 and 2015 is either a player on a cheap rookie deal or a veteran on a relatively friendly contract. If that’s the case, paying Revis doesn’t have to hamper the team all that much. I’m pretty indifferent between Options 1 and 4: the choice will have to be made based on the exact details of each option.