As the Darrelle Revis saga builds through this offseason -- it will dominate the NFL landscape until it reaches its likely conclusion with a trade -- and fan angst intensifies, let us keep in mind that modern football is, at its essence, a product of the business of entertainment. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson ultimately controls the budgets and operating costs of his team, and this Revis conundrum is born not of football concerns, or the player's desire to escape New York, but rather a matter of money.
Revis has never sought a trade. He has not threatened to hold out (though the specter of him playing out his deal for $6 million this season seems odd). He has, however, expressed a concern about his future in New York and is seeking more clarity from the club. But, sources said, contact from the highest reaches of the organization has been scant.
New general manager John Idzik, an inspired hire and someone who in time can clean up the contractual, roster and cap mess he inherited, is caught directly in the middle of this drama-filled scenario not of his making. And even coach Rex Ryan, far from a sympathetic figure through much of his tenure with the team, is more of an innocent bystander in this episode, having been neutered by the general-manager search and left to play out 2013 as more or less a lame duck.
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With previous GM Mike Tannenbaum gone, and other front office changes likely coming this spring, the entire prism of Jets drama now focuses directly on ownership. You don't float the idea of trading someone who is arguably one the top five players in the game regardless of position -- and still in his prime -- unless you are serious about it. The genesis of the Revis ordeal goes back to the ill-conceived band-aid contract New York gave him to end his 2010 holdout, and Johnson's concerns now about having to give Revis the $60 million or so guaranteed that the market would demand after Mario Williams got paid by the Bills a year ago.
It has long been established that NFL prices only go up, with record contracts doled out every year. This was always going to be a complicated spring between the Jets and this star corner, given the nature of his contract which called for a modest 2013 payday ($3 million salary, $3 million in bonuses), and language which precluded New York from franchising him after the season. This showdown was a long time coming, preceding anything Idzik could or would do, and when someone like Johnson makes it clear during the hiring of his next GM that Revis may have to go now, or risk losing him for nothing next February, well, then the rookie GM had best listen.
Revis, who could certainly be called to question for his holdout in the past, has done nothing to escalate this situation and despite the lack of communication between him and team officials, is largely saying and doing all the right things. He has not sought permission to negotiate with other teams, sources said (though at this point the Jets would be wise to begin that process), and even with the Jets seeming a shell of the outfit that reached consecutive AFC Championship Games, those close to him say he sincerely wants to stay in the Big Apple.
But this won't be his call. It's Johnson's. Entirely. Whether it's remnants from the debt of the new Meadowlands stadium or issues with selling suites, PSLs or whatever, the reality is that the Jets don't seem to value Revis as one of the game's elite performers, otherwise the movement to extend his deal would be afoot rather than exploratory actions toward a trade. Johnson is and has been quite willing to deal the man who is unquestionably his best player.
This goes way beyond Ryan, well beyond his pay grade. This is purely owner's box stuff. No one is in more of a win-now mode than Ryan, with his job very publicly on the line this year. No one values Revis more than he does. No one wants more badly to keep him. Not that it matters at this point.
If the Jets are successful in getting what they would deem to be close to fair value in a trade for Revis, expect Ryan to be livid behind closed doors (who knows, this being the Jets and all, maybe we're privy to a public outburst). Future draft picks won't mean much to this coach, and sources said Ryan was pretty much out of the loop on the internal Revis trade discussions.
In fact, the longer this goes the more it seems Johnson probably should have just blown up the entire building -- full coaching staff and all -- and started from scratch. It would have been pretty expensive, but the decision to not empower the new GM to hire a coach until 2014 could backfire as well.
Instead there are still vestiges of the old regime around, likely on borrowed time -- Ryan and Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes and, sigh, Tim Tebow, to name a few -- which just seems to further complicate New York's plight. Especially if Revis is dealt, you can't convince me that even Ryan, if truly soul searching, wouldn't have felt it was better to have gone ahead and absorbed his firing this offseason, rather than have his job security drag out through 2013.
Even while he's recovering from ACL surgery, there is a market for Revis. The injury certainly complicates the timing and makes it more likely nothing goes down until around the draft. It makes reaching a new contract with him more difficult for the club that trades for Revis, too. But it isn't a deal breaker. Far from it.
There are plenty of teams that would covet him: San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Washington, Detroit, Kansas City, though some of those clubs are hampered by cap issues. Will the Jets be able to get a first-rounder for him? Maybe not. Will ending this drama and moving on be worth two second-round picks, one of which could move to the first based on production? It just might.
This being the NFL and emotions running as high as they do, I'm sure plenty of fans will point the finger at Revis for his departure and look at the fat new contract he signs and bemoan the greed in the game. But had the Jets reached a real long-term solution with Revis back in that heady summer of Hard Knocks, this would not be an issue. Had they not riddled themselves with brutal contracts for guys like Sanchez and Holmes, this might not be an issue. And if Johnson was willing to pay Revis what the market will ultimately bear -- whether now or as an unrestricted free agent a year from now -- then Revis might just be a Jet for life, rather than one of the more highly regarded examples of trade bait this team has seen for quite some time.