Despite all the hyperbole and seemingly daily breathless media stories about how a Revis trade is imminent and how Revis MUST be dealt prior to the 2013 draft and how the Jets are BLOWING IT with their stubbornness in waiting for the right deal, I believe John Idzik is taking just the right approach with Revis. Here's why.
Much digital ink has been spilled detailing the risk the Jets take of having the market for Revis dry up and being left holding the bag, forced to watch Revis play out the string and bring back nothing more than a compensatory 2015 pick after he leaves in 2014. To be sure, there is risk there. The risk is being left with a single 2015 compensatory pick, no higher than a low 3rd round pick, rather than whatever package of picks might be had by trading Revis now. But it may help to quantify ALL the risks in this situation, not just the risk of losing one or two draft picks.
There are two basic possibilities for Revis' health. Either he returns 100% to the Revis of old, or he does not. Based on the best medical data available, returning 100% good as new is the most likely scenario, maybe 70-80% likely, maybe more, but hardly a slam dunk. Of course there are endless variations on the he does not return 100% theme, but in order to keep things manageable in evaluating the risks, let's just say for the sake of argument that he does not return 100% means he is no longer the best CB in football, and there is a nontrivial possibility he is no longer even much above average.
There are 3 basic possibilities as to the end game of where Revis plays football in 2014. He could re-sign with the Jets. He could be traded by the Jets, most likely for a package of draft picks. Or he could play out 2013 and sign with another team in 2014, with the Jets receiving at most a compensatory 3rd round pick.
So let's break this down into the 8 possible outcomes with respect to Revis (with the understanding that the Revis not 100% outcome is somewhat too simplistic)
1. Revis does not come back 100% and is traded for a package of 2013 and/or 2014 picks sooner rather than later. In this case, the Jets come out on top, but it is likely not an overwhelming victory, as the package of picks will likely be less than ideal due to the acquiring team's taking on the substantial risk of Revis' health. The Jets are unlikely to get back a huge haul of picks, but this would be a moderate win for the Jets.
2. Revis does not come back 100% and is traded later, for a package of 2014 or later picks. This would likely be a small win for the Jets. Any such package would probably reflect Revis' on field failure to recover 100%, as well as the reduced ability of any potential acquirer to fit Revis under the cap later in the season. However, the reduction in trade package received would be more than balanced out by the Jets dodging the bullet of re-signing Revis to a mega deal, only to find he is no longer worth it. The Jets recover something for Revis, and his failure to recover 100% means the Jets avoid overpaying on a long term contract for a diminished player.
3. Revis does not come back 100% and plays out the string in 2013, entering 2014 free agency. The Jets do not re-sign him because of his diminished play. This would probably be a small loss for the Jets, as they miss out on any trade package and receive only a compensatory draft pick in return. Still, they dodge the mega deal bullet, making the final outcome not too negative for Gang Green.
4. Revis does not come back 100% but is re-signed early in the process. This is a huge loss for the Jets, as they will be tied to a long term mega deal for a diminished player.
5. Revis comes back 100% and is traded for a package of 2013 and/or 2014 picks sooner rather than later. This would be a big loss for the Jets. No package of picks coming back is likely to come close to compensating for the loss of a healthy Revis.
6. Revis comes back 100% and is traded later, for a package of 2014 or later picks. This would be a huge loss, as a later trade is likely to bring back a lesser package of picks.
7. Revis comes back 100% and is lost to 2014 free agency. The biggest loss of all, for obvious reasons.
8. Revis comes back 100% and is re-signed by the Jets. This would be a big win for the Jets, as they lock up their only HOF caliber player for years to come.
Now, let's look at the possible outcomes by time period. If the Jets deal Revis quickly (scenarios number 1 and 5), it results in either a small chance of a moderate win or a large chance of a big loss for the Jets. Since the odds favor 100% recovery, the big loss is substantially more likely than the moderate win. So it would seem moving Revis quickly is not a good choice unless the Jets get bowled over by a huge trade offer.
If the Jets deal Revis later (scenarios#2 and 6), the Jets could achieve either a small chance of a small win or a large chance of a huge loss. Odds are in favor of the huge loss, making this choice even less appealing than trading him quickly.
If the Jets do not trade Revis at all (scenarios #3, 4, 7 and 8), the Jets have a small chance of a small loss (#3); a small chance of a huge loss (#4); a large chance of a huge loss (#7); and a large chance of a huge win (#8). However, if the Jets do not trade Revis, scenarios #4 and 7 are largely avoidable. If Revis is not healthy, all the Jets have to do is wait and evaluate him as the months progress to avoid the huge problem of re-signing a diminished Revis. And if Revis does come back 100%, as long as he shows it in 2013 the Jets will be in excellent position to evaluate him and pay him whatever it will take to avoid the huge loss of losing a healthy Revis to free agency. So while 2 of the 4 scenarios involved in not trading Revis are worst case type scenarios, they are in fact rather easily avoided, leaving only #3, a small chance of a small loss, and #8, a large chance of a huge win.
Given the various scenarios above, I would argue that the least risky move for the Jets, somewhat counterintuitively, is to let Revis play out the year and only re-sign him if he is returned to 100% health. Now of course, the wisdom of risking losing Revis to free agency has to be taken into account. However, the Jets are in position to have large amounts of cap space in 2014 and will have exclusive negotiating rights with Revis until mid March 2014, so the chances of getting a deal done are extremely high if the Jets are willing to pony up the cash. It then boils down to, should the Jets be willing to pony up the cash for a healthy Revis? I would argue almost certainly yes. Here's why.
It is probably no surprise to many that by 2014 the Jets will have substantial cap space available, more than enough to sign a healthy Darrelle Revis to a mega deal. What may be less well known is just how much cap space is available by 2015, only 2 short years away. In 2015 the Jets have only 10 players under contract, including, for the time being, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes. Assuming those two players will be cut by the 2014 season, the Jets will have only 8 players under contract for a total cap number of about $34 Million. That's right, assuming Holmes and Sanchez will be gone by then, the Jets are currently $90 Million under the 2015 cap. Now, that will obviously change between now and then. For one thing, there will be 3 draft classes accounting for approximately 20 players and $20 Million in cap space by the time the 2015 season begins. That brings us to 28 players on the roster and still $70 Million in cap space.
Who are the Jets going to spend all that cap space on? There are only 2 choices. We can spend it internally, on extensions to players currently on the roster. Or we can spend it on outside free agents.
Let's look for the moment at internal options. On the entire Jets roster, there are maybe 9 players that could possibly be good enough to spend much on in terms of extensions: Brick, Mangold, Cromartie, Wilkerson, Coples, Hill , Kerley, Ellis and Davis. But Brick and Mangold will both be 32 by the end of the 2015 season, and Cro will join them 3 months later, making them unlikely targets for big money extensions. Hill and Davis are not only unlikely to earn big money contracts by then, they will also not yet be eligible for contract extensions, as is also the case with Coples. That leaves Ellis, Wilkerson and Kerley. As much as we all like Kerley, we can probably agree it is unlikely he will earn a huge money extension in 2015. He's good, but he's not THAT good. Ellis is even less likely, both because of the low cost position he plays and because he has shown little so far to deserve it. That leaves Wilkerson. Big Wilk is likely to be the first internal contract Idzik extends for big bucks. He is a dominating force, and Idzik would be wise to tie him up for a long time. But what could such an extension cost at the maximum? Maybe $10 million in cap space? That leaves $60 million to be filled up by some mix of Brick, Mangold, Cro, Ellis, Kerley, some mix of outside free agents, and possibly Revis. It is difficult to imagine Idzik tying up more than $25 Million or so, and likely considerably less, on the five internal guys. So that leaves at least $35 Million, and likely considerably more, for Revis and outside free agents.
Now consider this. We are for purposes of this discussion dealing with a healthy Revis. Ask yourself, who would you rather spend your money on , a healthy Revis or some outside free agent? Sure, if a franchise QB were to make it to unrestricted free agency you'd have to value him over Revis. But how likely is that? And who else would you rather spend your money on? Just for comparison's sake, consider the 2013 free agent class. Is there a single player there you would rather pay big bucks to than a healthy Revis? Is anyone even close? A healthy Revis would still be in his prime. How often is a hall of fame talent in his prime available in free agency? What are the odds one would be in 2015? I would guess very low indeed.
Still, many object, you simply don't tie up franchise QB money on a CB. Well, maybe. But consider this. Even if the Jets find a franchise QB in the draft as early as 2013, they wouldn't be paying him any real money until 2017 at the earliest. So we couldn't spend the money on a franchise QB even if we wanted to. And interestingly enough, that timetable dovetails very nicely with a potential 5 year contract extension for Revis. Even if you make him the highest paid defensive player in the game, you can frontload the contract so that most of the money is paid in 2014 through 2016, with large salaries in 2017 and 2018 tied to performance bonuses paid only if he remains playing at a high level. The Jets then pay him the most money when he is still relatively young and at the top of his game, and when they have enormous amounts of cap space to afford it.
The Jets will not have an expensive QB to soak up cap space until 2017 at the earliest. Most of the best players on the team will not be likely to get long term extensions at high cap figures. John Idzik is not likely to go on a huge spending spree signing tons of big name free agents to expensive long term deals. And even in the unlikely event he were to do so, it is even more unlikely any such free agents will be more worthy of an expensive long term contract than Revis. The conclusion that makes the most sense, if Revis is healthy, is to pay the man, whatever it takes, even if it makes him the highest paid defensive player in football.
The Jets so far are playing a waiting game with Revis. I don't know if they plan on continuing to wait and only trade him if presented with an overwhelming offer, but I do think that is likely the best and least risky choice. Every possible scenario involves risk for the Jets. But I believe the least risky course of action is to wait and see how his recovery goes. The potential benefit of retaining a healthy Revis far outweighs the potential loss of draft picks obtainable in a trade. Wait and see, and if he is healthy, sign him up. I think it's the best course of action. Perhaps Idzik does too. And if he does, it would explain why the Jets seem in no rush to do anything just yet. Maybe good things will come to those who wait.