With the surprisingly superb play of Antonio Cromartie and the solid play of our other corners, the absence of Darrelle Revis has seemed to damage the Jets much less than originally anticipated. Indeed, the Revis situation has quietly faded into the background as we have shown the ability to adjust and still field a top pass defense. Consider this the calm before the storm. A quietly ticking time bomb is hidden in Metlife stadium, set to go off the day we host the Super Bowl in early 2014.
Revis becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season, provided he does not hold out at any time prior to that. As he will be coming back from a serious injury and knee surgery next year, the chances that he holds out seem remote. He will need to prove he is fully recovered in order to get the lifetime megacontract he covets. Any holdout will prevent him from proving himself. In addition, any holdout automatically extends his contract an additional 3 years on terms very favorable to the Jets. Given all that, we can probably safely assume the injury has taken the possibility of a holdout off the table. Advantage Jets, right?
Well, not so fast. Revis' 2010 contract included an $18 million bonus that did not kick in until 2011. Since the contract was nominally for seven years (voidable after 4 if no holdouts), and the bonus did not kick in until year 2, that bonus is prorated over the last 6 years of the contract for salary cap purposes. If Revis is cut or traded at any time prior to him becoming an unrestricted free agent, the remaining prorated bonus money automatically becomes dead cap money in its entirety. In other words, should we cut or trade Revis in 2013, our cap figure will be immediately raised by $9 million+. This is the main reason why those suggesting we trade Revis for a boatload of picks will probably be disappointed. We are already struggling under the cap in 2013. Given that Revis already will count $9 million under the cap for 2013, the effect of trading Revis would essentially to be to instantly transform him into an $18 million gaping hole in the 2013 cap number without any production from that cap space. In addition, if we simply allow Revis to become an undrafted free agent after the 2013 season, the remaining $9 million cap hit again rears it's ugly head, as we are left with absorbing the additional $9 million under the cap and no Revis, with only a paltry 3rd round pick as compensation. This is true EVEN IF WE EVENTUALLY COME TO TERMS WITH REVIS ON A NEW DEAL. Once he voids his final 3 years and becomes a free agent, we take the cap hit regardless of whether or not we resign him. Advantage, most definitely Revis.
So, where does that leave us? I think it leaves us with an interesting cat and mouse negotiation heading into 2013. Revis knows he cannot afford to hold out without destroying his market value. We know we cannot afford to trade him, AND, unless he is simply no longer an elite player, we cannot afford to let him walk. Nothing is likely to get done before we see Revis in real NFL action during the 2013 season. But from that point on, the clock is ticking, and, assuming he is anything close to the old Revis, every passing day the leverage shifts more toward the Revis side. The day this all explodes in our face? The 2014 Super Bowl, fittingly enough, in our home stadium. If Revis is not signed by then, he will become an unrestricted fee agent, and the Jets will immediately absorb a $9 million cap hit. Tick tock.