Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Revis, Jets face difficult situation

The Darrelle Revis-New York Jets contract negotiations took a turn for the ugly yesterday.

Revis skipped a few plays in practice, telling coach Rex Ryan he was lightheaded. Later, he mouthed off to the media about how he "sat out for a little bit just to let them know I can play or I can't play," making both himself and his coach look bad. He wants to be paid as much as any cornerback in the NFL, which means Nnamdi Asomugha's $15 million per year.

In one year's time, Darrelle Revis went from an up-and-coming cornerback in the NFL to the man, the myth, the legend known as Revis Island. Rex Ryan touted him as the best defensive player in football, and for good reason. He was that good.

Now, he wants to be paid like it. With three years left on his rookie deal, Revis wants to tear it up and get more money than any defensive back in the history of the NFL. Complicating matters is the fact that a few days after the season ended, Mike Tannenbaum promised Revis a new contract by next season. That's proving to be a statement he might like to take back now that he has heard his star cornerback's demands.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be paid, and Revis's case is obvious. I'm the best, you've told me I'm the best, now pay me like the best. But it's not that simple. With his contract being in place for three more seasons, he wouldn't have a whole lot of leverage if it weren't for Tannenbaum's promise.

Asomugha's contract of 3 years, $45 million was by far the biggest all-time for a cornerback, surpassing Nate Clements's 8-year, $80 million contract. But both of those players were free agents: Asomugha coming off a year where he played with the franchise tag, and Clements being the best cornerback to come on the free agent market in a long time. Revis is under contract. The Jets want to give him more money, and they're happy to do so in a long-term deal, but a deal like Asomugha's makes no sense.

In fact, any deal three years or less makes no sense because the Jets get nothing in return. They have him under contract for three years, if they give Revis more money, they at least want to secure another year or two at the end to lockdown their star cornerback. Giving Revis more money without an extension sets a precedent for any player who out-performs his contract to ask for a raise.

And giving him $15 million dollars a year for at least four or five years is a risky proposition for any NFL player, especially once the salary cap is likely re-implemented. Asomugha's deal was considered extreme and an aberration, but it set the market. Now between Ryan's lofty praise and Tannenbaum's ill-advised promise of a new deal, Revis has all the reason in the world to expect a massive new deal.

But if Revis doesn't back down from his contract demands a little bit, Tannenbaum has little reason to tear up his current deal. He'd look like a liar, and it could hurt the team's chances of locking up Revis long-term, but if Revis backed up his elite year with another one, the Jets would likely be more inclined to break the bank.

It also doesn't help Revis's case that Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris will all need new contracts, not to mention Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie. While Revis is the Jets' priority, there are too many other players they need to take care of to completely break the bank on their star cornerback.

That said, if Revis is correct that the Jets are offering him no guaranteed money, that's simply not right. While it's impossible to judge a contract without knowing all the details, clearly Revis was insulted enough to act like a prima donna at practice after building up three years of good will.

This is going to be a fascinating story to watch as the weeks go on. There's a wide gap between what the Jets are offering and what Revis wants, and that won't be closed by training camp barring a miracle. Expect this dispute to last deep into training camp, and with the HBO cameras in the building, everything Revis does will be magnified.

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