The Future of Darrelle Revis
One of the side stories of the Darelle Revis injury is now just what occurs with his contract and future with the Jets. There were more than a few reporters who initially felt his days as a Jet may be numbered. Jets beat writer Manish Mehta indicated that Revisí injury may have cost him $50 million dollars. So with that all in mind lets go over Revisí contract, how it works, and what it may mean to his future.
The existing deal
Revis technically has 4 years remaining on his contract, however the backend of the contract voids after next season, so in reality Revis has 1 year left. Next year Revis is set to earn $6 million dollars to play in the NFL. This will be paid in the form of a $1 million dollar workout bonus, $1 million dollar roster bonus, due on the 5th day of the 2013 League Year, $1 million dollar reporting bonus, and finally $3 million dollars of base salary. That money is currently guaranteed for skill and cap, however those guarantees void at the end of the 2012 season, meaning the Jets have no financial obligations left to Revis if these injury was so severe he could not return from it.
Provided the Jets do not release him and Revis does not hold himself out of any team activities next year, his contract with the Jets will void the day after the 2013 Super Bowl. Revis has a good measure of protection from release due to the $18 million option bonus he received in 2011. His salary cap charge in 2013 is $9 million, but would rise to $12 million in dead money if he was released. If the Jets allow his contract to void after he plays out the 2013 season he would cost $9 million in dead money in 2014. So there is still pressure from both sides to keep Revis on the team in the future rather than to just let him walk away.
How much money is lost
Manish brought up the point of $50 million due to the contract DE Mario Williams was given by the Buffalo Bills. Weíll get to the point about positional football in a minute, but note that most of that $50 million in guaranteed salary is in the form of injury guarantees. Williams real guarantee is $24.9 million, which can rise to about $40 million if he is not released after this season. The large cash payout in the first few years is certainly real, but it remains to be seen if the Bills maintain the relationship for that long as they are not bound by dead money cap constraints since their payroll is generally low.
The bigger point in comparing Revis to Williams is the fact that the players play entirely different positions. If the Jets wanted to commit that kind of money to Revis they would have reopened his contract this season since itís better to pay not than later in a career. The majority of the corner market is around $10 million with the top player at $12 million. The pass rusher market topped out at $14 million with the majority of the market in the $12 million range. Teams donít often like to be the ones to totally blow up a market. Look at how difficult it was for the New Orleans Saints to get Drew Brees over the $100 million dollar contract hurdle. Williams new contract represented a 14.3% raise over Julius Peppers. Using that same number the highest Revis would go is $13.7 million. Using the same percentages we would get a guarantee ranging from $21 to 34 million for Revis. So $50 million on the table is a bit much. Plus it is not like he will never have a chance to earn that money. Revisí biggest claim to that kind of money came from 2009 which is now the distant past. For as good as he has been he has never approached that kind of dominance again. In hindsight, a great deal of why he was that incredible was because of how much pressure the defense generated in 2009. Everyone was caught off guard and everyone benefitted from it. You take a player who is great in Revis and combine it with a spectacular pass rush and you get a corner that looks like he never gives up a reception. Since the defensive scheme was solved by the rest of the league Revis remains right at the top but itís no longer the dominance of 2009 where he was in a class all by himself. That was going to factor into any contract he signed.
The question becomes more one of timing than anything else. Letís go back to Revisí initial holdout which led to the current contract he is playing under. Revis originally signed a 6 year contract with the Jets in 2007, which would have ended in 2012. Because of the balloon payment due in 2012 the way the deal likely would have worked is that Revis would have played on that contract thru 2011 and been extended this season that would have made him a Jet thru 2017. Revis and his advisors decided to take a risk and hold out his services in 2010 in hopes for an extension. The real reason behind this was likely not so much as to make more money now, though that was definitely a concern, but to maximize his lifetime earning potential.
Though he never had to hold out, the perfect example of this was WR Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgeraldís agent Eugene Parker, crafted a spectacular series of contracts that forced the Arizona Cardinals to keep extending the star WR for salary cap considerations. Fitzgerald has already been extended twice by the Cardinals and will most likely get another new contract following the 2014 season, at the age of only 31. To be able to earn four contracts in the NFL by the time you reach 31 is remarkable. Most players in his spot would be just trying to get their third deal. Revisí deal would have put him in a situation to likely get that fourth deal at the age of 32.
The injury likely puts Revis back to square one in terms of earning potential. Under the old deal his contracts probably would have been extended in 2012 and again in 2016. At the age of 31 in 2016 that would have been it for the big earnings. His goal was to be extended in 2010, 2013, and then again in 2016, getting those four contracts before he really turns the age corner. Now it looks more like heíll need to wait until at least 2014 to get a big deal and that could take him to 2018 to get his final contract, which may be too late to earn a final big one. Had Revis never held out he likely would have made $56 million thru 2013. By holding out he is going to earn $62.6 million, so he is going to come out ahead financially barring this being a career ender, but the vision of the multiple contracts is gone now. That being said if he is healthy there is no reason why he will not see the same money he would have seen before, itís just not going to get to him until a season later.
What does the future hold
Some articles have speculated that the Jets will low ball Revis due to the injury. I donít think that is the case at all. It would be a PR nightmare for the team to make that move. That doesnít mean you break the bank to keep him, but you do negotiate in relatively good faith within the constraints of the cornerback market. There was a time when I was a proponent of entertaining a trade for Revis, even with the large dead money hit, under the assumption that he was going to be tough to deal with in 2013 and the team could probably get a first round pick or a high second and third for him. Now the Jets would get limited value due to the injury so I donít think that is even a consideration anymore, which means you need to come to some agreement that benefits both sides.
The case to watch very carefully right now is Brent Grimes of the Atlanta Falcons. Grimes has been one of the top corners in the NFL the last three years and was playing under the franchise tag this season. He tore his Achilles in week 1 and will miss the entire year. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Atlanta can franchise him again to the tune of $12.5 million guaranteed, but with that being such a high number he should get to test the market. While the injuries are different both are severe and many consider the Achilles more damaging than an ACL. This is going to give both Revis and the Jets a framework to work in. While Grimes was not going to make Revis money his contract would likely be in the 5 year, $10-11 million a year ballpark, ranking him 3rd or 4th among corners. Depending on how many less years and less money he gets will give the sides an idea as to how to value the injury.
From Revisí side there is now going to be no hurry to redo the contract. They know he is no longer bargaining from a position of strength and you do not maximize your value from a position of weakness. The Jets have a little more urgency because of that void clause at the end of the season, but they will likely want to see what occurs for at least half the season before they give him anything close to the kind of contract he would like. That would seem to leave both sides with a very narrow window to sign an extension after at least the midway point of 2013 but before the Super Bowl ends.
If I were the Jets I might be more proactive in my approach. Itís no secret that the Jets and Revisí team do not get along. This feud started long before Revis was drafted and will linger longer after Revisí playing days are done. But there is a point where the two need to bury the hatchet and come up with a reasonable deal that benefits both sides. The fact is it may take Revis not just one, but two seasons to really prove he can be the Revis of 2009-2011 again. Revis also has no guarantee that he will be the Revis of old again.
Clearly there are going to be to models of contract. The first is the Peyton Manning style deal. The Broncos viewed Manning as if no injury occurred, but left themselves protection in the event his neck is unhealthy. The contract contains no prorated money, thus leaving them with no dead cap hit if Manningís neck does not allow him to continue playing beyond 2012. No matter how you spin it Revis is not Peyton Manning, meaning he would likely need to take a deal where the skill guarantees are rolling not based on checking out his knee. That would be a pure pay as you go contract and Iím not sure Revis would go for that, but itís one consideration. Likewise they could also do an inventive laden deal using this same model, that is based on playing time and other honors.
Another option would be to do a real ďband aidĒ contract. This is what I would prefer and I think would give both sides the time needed to see where Revis is at. Considering Revisí age signing his next mega deal in 2015 rather than 2014 is not going to have a material impact on his lifetime earnings. In this scenario you move the void date to follow the 2014 Super Bowl, leaving just 2015 and 2016 as the voidable years on the contract. Guarantee Revisí 6 million in 2013 and give him one year at the money he would have likely gotten per year if the injury did not occur, which for the sake of argument we will say is $13.5 million, in essence amounting to a 1 year fully guaranteed $13.5 million dollar extension.
If there is one silver lining in Revisí injury it is that it gives the Jets some flexibility with his cap number next season. Because of the way the league values incentives the fact that Revis is going to spend 13 weeks on IR rather than the active roster gives the Jets an opportunity to pay him in say gameday roster bonuses next season and not have it count against the cap until the following year. With 2013 looking to be a tight season capwise, I think itís a better idea to defer the charges as long as possible. Of course Revis needs to agree to this, but I would think there is a contract structure that could work.
For example the Jets could pay him a base salary of $1 million in 2013 with $5 million in gameday bonuses at $312,500 per game. As long as he is put on IR this week that would reduce next years cap hit during free agency from $9 million to $4.9375 million. You will have to make up the balance the following season, but the Jets cap should be much less of an issue in 2014 and its better to take the blow then rather than now. You would protect that money with the opportunity to earn the same amount in a roster bonus the following season, which would void based on the amount earned the year before. Likewise his 2014 salary would be partially protected with guarantees.
Granted this is going to leave the team with a monster cap hit in 2014, somewhere around $16 million with an even larger effective cap hit, but that is the purpose of a band aid. It gives the Jets time to decide what the market worth really is and also for Revis to prove that he should be paid as a top tier player. If he is healthy in 2013 and plays well then they have a good deal of time to determine how to tear up 2014 and give him the 5 year deal he wants.
Of course its easy for me to just say that when the reality could be option 3, which is a high stakes game of chicken between the two sides. Revis could refuse to sign a new deal and flex his muscle on the $9 million dollar dead cap the Jets incur if they donít sign him to the deal he wants next season. Itís a realistic possibility. The risk he takes there is playing out the 2013 season and getting hurt again or finding out he is ineffective after the ACL surgery. The added money he would receive under the first two options would be gone forever as it makes more sense to eat 9 million in dead money than paying someone who canít play anymore.
The Jets have more invested in Revis and would likely be the highest paying team for his services, but once they eat that money I doubt they would re-sign him. From their perspective they paid him a lot of money in 2010 and 2012 and in return he missed a ton of football games. Is that fair? No, but itís the same argument he made when he played all the games at a ďbelow marketĒ rate. If this occurred, he would be at the mercy of the market and Iím not sure that is what he would want. Nnamdi Asomugha had to create a bidding war between the Jets, Cowboys, and Eagles to get his money since there was no home team involved, and he didnít get anywhere near the insane money he had on his Raiders contract. If the interest is lukewarm he could end up with a lesser deal than he would have gotten by playing ball with the team who drafted him. Of course he could also get that big deal he wants.
Itís still early in the process and we wonít know more until Revis actually has his surgery and what his doctors say about his knee. Advancements in surgery have made returning from ACLs far more realistic than they would have in the past. I have confidence that he is going to still be a Pro Bowl caliber player, putting up similar numbers to those he puts up now. The damage to him is really that last contract he may have earned years down the line. He was never going to get the monster deal he believed he would get and the injury just solidifies that, but I still believe he will be the highest paid corner in the market once he is healthy. Will it be with the Jets? I guess we will wait and see.