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Free agency Judgements: Even if CB market set, health's issue for Revis

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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The market for free-agent cornerbacks was established this week, and it wasn't all that high -- with recipients generally getting $6 million to $6.5 million per season. So what I want to know now is this: How does that affect Darrelle Revis and his next contract ... if it affects it at all?

"I don't think it does," one AFC salary-cap expert said. "The issue is his knee. If, in fact, he's the best cornerback in the game -- the game-changing cornerback that he's supposed to be -- then people will pay him like the best in the game.

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"But the issue is the knee. If you don't know that he's a game changer then I don't think you can pay premium dollar."

The problem is that no one knows what Revis can do until he's able to run, and he's not expected to run outdoors until next month at the earliest. Revis suffered a torn knee ligament last season and isn't expected to be ready until the beginning of training camp.

That's problem No. 1. Problem No. 2 is that he becomes a free agent after this season, with his contract structured so that, if he doesn't hold out, the Jets can't protect him with the franchise tag in 2014. Problem No. 3 is that the Jets owe him $1 million in a roster bonus Saturday. Problem No. 4 is that they're suffocating under the salary cap, have only four defensive starters under contract and continue to hemorrhage players -- with tight end Dustin Keller leaving for Miami on Friday.

The biggest problem, however, is that Revis wants a new contract, and he wants it in the Mario Williams neighborhood ... which means $15 million to 16 million per. The Jets are not a playoff team even with Revis, so it's expected they deal him. But who's going to take him based on what they think might happen?

"I don't know of anyone who would do a deal like that," said the cap expert. "The Jets are screwed. Maybe there's a team out there that assumes this is Adrian Peterson and would be willing to give up a first-round draft pick for him. But if you don't know what you're getting how do you do that?"

Good question. An NFC capologist agreed, saying he'd pay the guy if he knew he were healthy. But he doesn't. And as for the cornerbacks this week who picked up checks, he insisted their deals have little or no impact on Revis.

"This was not an especially strong crop of free agents," he said. "I didn't see any 'elite' cornerbacks out there. So teams are taking the cheaper approach. So this has as much bearing as, say, what impact the contract for Alex Smith has on Joe Flacco. If you want a cornerback the caliber of Revis you're going to pay top dollar."

The question, of course, is what do you consider "top dollar," especially with Revis coming off a severe knee injury? Which is why this week's money for cornerbacks is not the central topic with Revis; his rehabilitation is.

"The injury is the more immediate concern," said a high-profile agent. "Clearly, this market could have some impact, but the knee is the bigger issue. What's he going to look like when he returns? The guy's been off for a year, and it's going to take awhile just for him to get the 'feel' of the game back. So you're going to pay $12 million-to-$13 million-$14 million for someone who gradually must work his way back? Think about it.

"The bigger story, though, is that this is a guy whose happiness seems strictly tied to money, and if a player's happiness is tied to money he'll never be happy -- because he'll never have enough."

2. Honest question about the Elvis Dumervil debacle: How could a late fax screw this up? I mean, who does faxes anymore?

3. I can't imagine what took the Vikings so long to add Greg Jennings. They needed a wide receiver, and Jennings was the best one on the market. He runs precise routes, he has reliable hands and he's proven. OK, so he also has a recent history of injuries, missing 11 of his past 32 games, but he's better than anything on the Minnesota roster. Plus, he gets to play the Packers twice each year.

4. Now the question: How will Jennings get along with Christian Ponder?

5. Kevin Kolb did more than cost the Arizona Cardinals $20.5 million for two years of part-time work. He cost them a shot at Peyton Manning, too. OK, so Manning probably was going to go to Denver anyway. But we'll never know because the Cardinals pulled out of the Manning Sweepstakes exactly one year ago to pay Kolb a $7 million roster bonus. Arizona gambled on Kolb, and it not only cost the club; it cost coach Ken Whisenhunt his job.

6. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Ed Reed's best move is back to Baltimore. I don't care what the money is. You get to become the voice of the franchise, retire a Raven and walk away a hero -- just as Ray Lewis did when he returned to the Ravens in 2009.

7. Kolb makes sense for the Jets because of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, but what about Ryan Fitzpatrick? He's a free-agent quarterback, too, and I have this feeling he returns to Cincinnati ... because he was there before, he was happy and he needs a life change, now more than ever. The issue, of course, is this: Does Fitzpatrick want to compete for a starting job? If so, it won't be in Cincinnati. But the guy took his lumps in Buffalo, so he might want to go somewhere he can serve as the backup and get treated well. That could be Cincinnati.

8. The Rams keep telling themselves they're not out of the Jake Long picture, but it's never good sign when a high-profile free agent leaves your building without a contract. That almost guarantees he's out of their picture ... and back in Miami's.

9. Few assistants had a better week than Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. He not only retained cornerback Chris Houston and added safety Glover Quin; he kept safety Louis Delmas, too. Now, the Lions better look for an outside pass rush to fix a defense that ranked 27th in points allowed. When you play in the same division as Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers you don't survive if you can't defend the pass.

10. There's a reason so many short-term deals were done this week. Guys are looking to the future when the salary cap jumps significantly. It's been flat, increasing from $121 million to $123 million this season.

11. When Denver's Wes Welker was asked if he felt undervalued by New England, he said, "That's all relative. I'm a Denver Bronco now, and I'm excited about it. I'm really not looking in the past." Consider that a yes.

12. Here's what the Kevin Kolb deal is down to: defensive lineman Vinny Curry and cornerback Brandon Boykin. Period. Kolb is gone from Arizona, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is gone from the Eagles. What's left are the two picks Philadelphia gained from Green Bay in a draft-day deal for the Cards' second-rounder -- and that's Curry (second round) and Boykin (fourth).

13. New England adds a speed receiver in Donald Jones, and it's about time. Tom Brady could use someone to stretch the field. Plus, the guy is young (25), so there's another bonus. But this is what bothers me: 10.8. That's his yards-per-catch average. If Jones is so fast shouldn't that number be higher ... I mean, way higher?

14. Beanie Wells is a former Ohio State standout, and the Cincinnati Bengals are looking for another running back. So it would seem like the ideal marriage. So why hasn't anything happened? "Because you ever notice that nothing ever happens right for him?" said one source close to the club. "It seems like something is always wrong." OK, go ahead and say it: Wouldn't that make him a perfect fit for the Bengals?

15. Now I know Geno Smith's stock is up. I asked an offensive coordinator who was down on the West Virginia quarterback what he thought of him after this week's workout, and he shook his head. "Probably a top-10 choice," he said. I'll second that. I can't imagine him getting past Buffalo at No. 8.

Three things I like

1. Steven Jackson's departure from St. Louis. It was handled with class, with both sides getting credit. The Rams had nothing but good things to say about Jackson, and Jackson had nothing but good things to say about the Rams. Plus, it was the Rams who made his exit possible by voiding his contract. "When we looked at it," said a source close to the situation, "this was the way it was supposed to happen." Too bad more departures aren't as clean.

2. Matt Shaugnessy to Arizona. I like this guy. He can play the run and the pass. But I like the contract more. It's a one-year deal, which means Shaugnessy will be committed to playing hard for his next deal.

3. Cincinnati's division hopes. With every starter Baltimore and Pittsburgh subtract, the Bengals look like they might, just might, be the team to beat in the AFC North.

Three things I don't

1. John Elway's blood pressure. He thought he had Elvis Dumervil agreed to a pay cut ... and he did. The problem was that he didn't have his signature and didn't get it until the league deadline passed ... forcing Denver to cut one of the league's top pass rushers. I imagine the last time Elway was this ticked is when the Baltimore Colts told him Frank Kush would coach him his rookie season.

2. Marty Magid's future. Nope, I never heard of Magid before, either. He's the agent who screwed the pooch on the Elvis Dumervil deal, and good luck locking down future clients, Marty. Next time consider carrier pigeons.

3. The Philadelphia Eagles leaving Lehigh after 17 years. This is more sentimental than anything. Lehigh had terrific athletic facilities and a great atmosphere for Eagles' fans willing to travel one hour north. In fact, the first day of the 2004 training camp nearly 20,000 showed up for Terrell Owens' debut. I'll miss that. I'll miss the campus and the sandwiches at Deja Brew, too.

Just asking but ...

 Any chance that Elvis Dumervil's agent blew the deadline on purpose?

 And why did it take his client two hours to accept a deal that was never finalized anyway?

 Why are the Chargers bringing back Ronnie Brown?

 How soon before Miami announces Jake Long's return?

 Is Adrian Wilson really the answer in New England?

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