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Why the Jets Should Make Darrelle Revis the Highest Paid Cornerback in the NFL

We had a great discussion post on the site last night that really helped me think things through and gather my own thoughts on this mess. Certain opinions of mine have not changed. I still think Darrelle Revis is making a mistake and getting bad advice. I am also now convinced the Jets should top Nnamdi Asomugha’s contract.

Let’s think about it. Generally speaking, the people on this site have come to a figure of around $12 million per season as fair market value. That’s reasonable. Asante Samuel and Nate Clements have contracts for around $10 million per. Revis is better than both players.

The chatter seems to be that Revis wants to top Nnamdi Asomugha’s annual value of $15.1 million per season. Let’s assume $12 million is the starting point. If the Jets won’t top Clements’ deal by $2 million, which was the open market value for a corner not as good as Revis, it’s too low in my book. If the Jets want to top Asomugha’s annual salary by $100,000, they would need to tack on $3.2 million.

Let’s put $3.2 million into perspective for an NFL team. The salary cap in 2009 was worth around $127 million. That extra $3.2 million would count for 2.5% of the team’s cap space. Would it really be worth losing the best defender in the league over 2.5% of the cap? Also consider the cap goes up over time, meaning that $3.2 million would count for less a percentage of the team’s space over time. It’s really not that much more.

Now let me run down my responses to arguments I have heard a lot.

More after the jump.

A cornerback isn’t worth top dollar.

I would agree in every case aside from this one. I would even agree if Revis was playing in Eric Mangini’s system. This is the one player in the one system for which a corner really is that valuable. The Jets have Revis follow the other team’s top receiver around all game. Nnamdi Asomugha doesn’t do that. Neither does Charles Woodson.He eliminates elite offensive weapons by himself. For most teams to do that, it requires a second defender. That frees somebody else up to do something else, adding an extra player to the defense in essence. It also allows the Jets to roll their coverage and give defenders extra help on secondary targets. These are the guys who usually have an advantage when a defense focuses on shutting down the top option on the other team.

Revis makes every on the defense better. Against good run teams, the Jets don’t have to worry about stacking the box and being vulnerable deep. His coverage makes the pass rush better. Most people say the pass rush is what makes the secondary. Watch the tape again of Jets games last season. Tell me how many times a quarterback had time then eventually had a guy in his face because the coverage held.

Again, this is all because Rex Ryan has Revis follow around the other team’s top receiver and provides little help. It seems like a common sense thing to have your best corner do that, but nobody does it. Back in 1995, the 49ers schemed to keep Jerry Rice away from Deion Sanders in a game against the Cowboys. The Cowboys let it happen. Most other teams would have also. Rex understands how to get the most out of Revis’ ability. That’s why he’s so valuable.

On a side note, a team that trades for him and does not use him this way is wasting its money and his talent.

Revis only had one good season.

I don’t really know where this came from. Revis has played at a number one cornerback level since the second half of his rookie season. Last year I predicted before the opener he would handle Andre Johnson. There’s a reason for that. Perhaps the Jets did not get the same value out of him before 2009, but that again was a scheme issue. There is every reason to believe he would have done a great job playing in Rex Ryan’s system before last year. There’s a definite disconnect between when he started playing top notch ball and when the media took notice.

The team should take care of Nick Mangold and David Harris.

These are not mutually exclusive. Assuming the salary cap returns, there is likely space for all of the homegrown stars.

Rex Ryan made Revis.

I agree but not in the way you would put it. Ryan understood how to develop a scheme that made the most out of Revis’ abilities. The Jets wouldn’t get as much value out of him without the way Rex constructed the defense.

Revis has a contract. He should honor it.

The NFL is a brutal business. Contracts are not guaranteed. What if Darrelle got hurt seriously, came back, and played like Drew Coleman. Do you think the Jets would hesitate for a second to cut him? They wouldn’t honor his contract. He’s one injury away from losing the highest earning potential of his life. He’s also the seventh highest paid defensive back on the team this year. The bottom line to me is he outperformed his contract. He’s earned a new one.

If the team caves to Revis, they will have to cave whenever a player wants a new contract.

This is not the case. Revis is a unique talent. He brings something to the table that nobody else does. This is a special case.

He shouldn’t be rewarded for holding out while guys like Mangold and Harris are in camp working hard for the team.

In an ideal world, this would be correct. The world isn’t a fair place, though. You can work hard for the same employer for three decades, do nothing wrong, and still get a pink slip when the company decides it wants to save some money. That’s not fair. Neither is life in the NFL.

The Jets are trying to put together a winning football team. It’s not about what’s fair. They took the moral high ground with Pete Kendall. What did it get them? The answer is a dysfunctional offensive line, a quarterback facing such consistent pressure, Chad Pennington, that he lost all confidence, and a 4-12 season. I’d rather have a team that wins than a team that takes the moral high ground.

I understand many of you will disagree with my perspective. I know for a fact some of the other terrific writers you will read on the site do. That is all right. A diversity of opinions is good for a site like this.

I just think the Jets should do what it takes to keep Revis in green and white. How many players actually impact the game every play they are on the field? Drew Brees does. Peyton Manning does. Tom Brady does. Chris Johnson does. Darrelle Revis is in this group. I don’t particularly care for the way he has handled this situation, but I also don’t want to see the Jets lose him. I'm not saying I necessarily think either side is sympathetic here. It's a billion dollar corporation against a millionaire athlete. If making him the highest paid corner in the game is the only way to keep Revis, though, I think the Jets should do it.