Three Bad Reasons for Trading Darrelle Revis

Al Bello

Introduction

I'd like to address three fairly common talking points I've seen a lot that suggest the Jets need to trade Darrelle Revis. I'm not necessarily seeing a lot of this on GGN. These are more rebuttals to various pundits because you see quite a few of these statements floating in the media, even among people whose opinions I respect greatly. I happen to disagree with these thoughts quite a bit, however, for the reasons I will explain below.

1. Paying Revis a lot will prevent the Jets from having a good team.

Let's say for a second that there's no way Revis will accept a penny less than the $16 million annually he's rumored to be seeking. Compare that with Revis' $11.5 million cap number in 2012. I don't think anybody would argue Revis' cap number was the reason the Jets were bad. So let's say the Jets increase it. We are talking about $4.5 million out of a $123 million cap that is set to increase in coming years. Are we to believe that small percentage of the cap is going to be the difference between the Jets potentially contending and being a bad team?

When you build a team, you can afford to pay a handful of players a lot of money. Paying certain players a lot does not make you uncompetitive against the cap. It is when you start paying eight to ten players big money, and you could get better production from guys like Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Mark Sanchez for pennies on the dollar that your cap situation is ruined. Managing the cap well is about knowing which guys you should not give big money to. There are a handful of guys worth big money.

Cap space is not terribly difficult to find when you need to. Year after year we have seen the Jets and many other teams in the league clear eight figures worth of cap space to get ready for the offseason. Off the top of my head, I could tell you moves the Jets can make to clear over $20 million in cap space if they wanted to.

This is all assuming Revis will take not a penny less than Mario Williams. I am willing to bet this is not the case. For starters, Revis' agents know what the market looks like for a cornerback coming off an ACL tear. They understand the market is probably not going to pay it.

Another thing to consider is how NFL contracts are not guaranteed. Revis could sign a contract for $100 million with no money guaranteed. He could have a freak accident in his house tomorrow that could end his career, and he would be out of luck. He would be cut and not see a penny. Now consider how dangerous the game he plays is. You can see why the amount guaranteed is probably more important than the annual salary or total money on paper. (You should also consider this the next time a player holds out. A holdout is the only leverage an NFL player has. Think about how seldom players hold out in other sports where contracts are guaranteed. It might give you more sympathy for the player.)

The total value of the contract is also relatively unimportant because players usually do not make it to the end of long term deals. If they are good enough, they get a new contract before their current one expires. Players are willing to take it because again it means more guaranteed money. If they are not good enough, they are cut because the lack of guaranteed money in these contracts makes cutting players painless for the teams.

This is important because three years ago we heard that Revis would not take a penny less than Nnamdi Asomugha's contract with the Raiders. He ended up finding the deal the Jets offered was to his liking because of the guarantees he found relative to the years on the deal. Worst case, you are upping the amount of cap space you give to Revis as suggested in the first paragraph, but the worst case is likely not the only case.

You can also structure a contract to make a cap hit less in a year you cannot afford it and push a bigger cap hit to a year where you have more room.

If you have a truly great player and pay him a lot of money, that isn't going to be the reason for your cap problems.

2. A cornerback like Revis doesn't win you games.

It is important to understand why people say cornerbacks do not win you games. It is true with almost every other player at this position. Most teams use their cornerbacks one way. The best guy lines up on either the left or right side. You can have your best receiver go in the opposite direction of the other team's best corner. If you catch a break and get your best corner on the other team's best receiver, your corner still gets help. You have extra defenders line up on that side to make passing windows tighter. You give help with a safety over the top. Using all of these resources to eliminate the other team's best weapon gives secondary receivers more room to operate. Even when an elite offensive weapon is taken away, it makes other offensive players better because they don't have to deal with the other defensive players.

Most cornerbacks do not win you games because of that. Revis is not most cornerbacks. The way the Jets play defense is different from most that you see. Revis frequently follows the best receiver out of the huddle no matter where he goes. He does not get extra bodies on his side clogging passing lanes. He does not get safeties to help him over the top. Those extra bodies go to clogging the passing lane on the other side to help the number two guy in coverage. They are used to blitz to aid the pass rush. They are used in the box to stop the run. The Jets use Revis to make everybody around him better. Everybody else has extra help doing their job. That means you don't need everybody else to be as good to get the other jobs done. Everybody else has to do less. You can see it yourself if you watch how the Jets play defense. If you don't believe me, I can show you others with the Jets and those watching in the media who tell you the same thing.

The Jets had an elite defense like this. It was built around Revis in the way mentioned above. The Jets twice got to within a game of the Super Bowl with it. Because of the help Revis taking up half the field allowed the Jets to give to others in coverage, a defense with no great pass rusher and Lito Sheppard, Dwight Lowery, and Drew Coleman as the other main cornerbacks allowed 8 passing touchdowns in 2008. That defense allowed less than 6 yards per pass. That won games.

Revis holding Peyton Manning's favorite target to one catch for one yard in a Playoff game won the Jets that game. Manning was thrown so off rhythm that the Colts only scored 16 points and a single touchdown. Calvin Johnson takes over games. Having a player who can hold him to 4 catches and 13 yards, rendering him irrelevant, wins games. Revis totally throws an offense off. He eliminates dominant players. Not having the best option throws an offense off. That is disruptive enough. Then on top of that, the Jets can use extra resources to shut down the secondary options. This wins games. Revis is one of a handful of game changing players in the league. He might be the only one the Jets have.

3. Trading Revis will allow the Jets to restock their roster with talent, aiding the rebuilding process.

This would be a good reason to trade Revis if it was true. The problem is it probably isn't true. The days of Herschel Walker type trades where you get four players, three first round picks, three second round picks, and a third round pick are over. That is mainly because everybody remembers what a steal the Cowboys got for Herschel Walker.

Every report so far seems to indicate a Revis bidding war would not go higher than a first round pick and another pick that is not a first rounder. Reports even say that is what the Jets are hoping to land. Think about Revis' value that we just talked about. In order to just replace the value Revis provides, the Jets would need to find a game changing player with one of those picks. Sometimes we think of value as simply finding as many new bodies for a position of weakness. It goes deeper, though. Losing Revis would make everybody in the defense worse. Everybody would have to do more.

This Jets team has little talent on it. Revis is indeed a game changing presence. With him around, everybody has to do less and you can get away with less talent on defense because he is there to pick up the slack. If you get rid of Revis, you are almost starting from scratch. The Jets will need to hit a number of homeruns and be close to perfect with acquisitions to get competitive again. The hole will be big even with Revis, but losing the one game changing player makes that hole monumental. The talent level necessary to add to make the Jets good again would rise substantially.

I understand this will be difficult to hear still in the honeymoon period, but the odds are against John Idzik being able to pull off this necessary long run of brilliant moves. Idzik is an experienced and competent football man, but so is almost everybody who gets general manager job. Very few people, even those highly qualified and competent, are able to pull of that kind of string of wildly successful moves.

I have heard some suggest that if the Jets were in a position to win like the 49ers, keeping Revis would make more sense. I could not disagree more. If the Jets had as many game changing players as the 49ers, they would not need Revis as much. They would have players at other positions who could carry the load in other spots and allow the team to get away with less at cornerback. That is why it is easy to imagine the 49ers having lukewarm interest in Revis. He would no doubt make them better, but they are likely to contend with or without him. When it comes to the Jets, they have so little surrounding talent, they could not possibly take the hit of losing elite talent. They need Revis as an anchor so they can focus their scheme on giving help to other areas.

If the Jets got a boatload of early picks, I could see it. That would give them good odds to find the same value either by adding an elite player or through collective value. If the Jets could even get a player like Richard Sherman from Seattle who could replace Revis plus a pick to potentially improve the team, I could see it. I could see it if the Jets got a player like Aldon Smith who could make a big impact in a different way plus a pick that could potentially improve the team.With those trades, you would get something established, and the floor would still be high Just a couple of picks you where you would need to hit on 100% to win the trade isn't a good package. There is no reason to believe any of those deals would be on the table. Given the complexities of Revis' situation and the way the NFL works, the players I mentioned probably have a higher trade value than Revis today.

Conclusion

There is a contract out there that makes sense for both Darrelle Revis and the Jets. It is more likely the two sides will find this than the Jets will find a trade that makes sense and produces fair value. The point at which a Revis trade would be a positive for the Jets would fall well below the return the Cowboys got for Herschel Walker in that aforementioned trade, but it is higher than anything suggested as a reasonable deal to date.

The only reasons a trade involving Revis would make sense involve a monster package or a scenario where the Jets can see Revis will not be the same player due to his injury. It is too early to possibly know whether his injury will prevent him from being a full player, yet reporters from locals ones like Manish to national ones like Breer and Schefter have indicated the team will push for a trade. The Jets would be wise to reconsider.

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