Revis resolution happened a week before my predicted date of September 14. I thought Revis would try to force the issue for one game, banking that the Ravens' performance against the Jets sans Revis would provide more leverage.
In the end, the same emotional bravado that coach Rex Ryan used to increase contract expectations was used to reel those expectations back in. Ryan’s visit to Revis this past weekend was a skillful play on the player’s emotions and love for the game and greased the skids for a deal.
Quarterback comparables a nonstarter
Revis and agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod had held fast to believing comparable data points for Revis were not (1) the best cornerbacks in the NFL; nor (2) the best defensive players in the NFL but rather the best players in the NFL, including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees (all with forthcoming extensions). Emboldened by effusive praise from Jets management and Ryan, the Revis camp truly believed (or deluded themselves into believing) that Revis – like Brett Favre in Minnesota – deserved special treatment.
While the Jets, continued to do business in locking up D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold with top-of-market deals for their positions, Revis sat. The deals were limited in their guarantee breadth, with Ferguson choosing to guarantee for skill and buying his own injury protection, and Mangold choosing an injury guarantee. Revis thought himself above having to accept anything less than a rock-solid guarantee on all fronts.
Shorter is better
There were many deal lengths discussed but I always thought that a shorter-term solution was the best option. Revis was halfway through a six-year rookie contract that, as the 14th pick in the 2007 Draft, had the 6th most guaranteed money in that Draft (due largely to the fact it was a six-year deal). And Revis had already made $15 million on that deal.
When the Raiders jumped the market with Nnamdi Asomugha's $16 million average, top-of-market cornerback deals were around $10 million per year. That deal is and will continue to be an outlier.
Asomugha will be a free agent after this season, as he is due to make the Franchise Tag number for a quarterback, over $20 million (even the Raiders won’t pay him that…I think). Thus, at this time next year, assuming we have football, we should have a better idea of what Asomugha’s – and the top cornerback market – value is.
Thus, Revis resolution came in the following form: four years, $46 million with $32 million guaranteed, paid as follows:
2010: $7.5 million
2011: $18 million option bonus (earned at start of 2011 League Year) and $7 million salary
2012: $7.5 million
2013: $6 million
There are three voidable years based on Revis reporting to training camp on time every year, ostensibly to avoid the situation that just occurred (some wishful thinking there). And there are some intricacies in the guarantee language, but the Jets confirmed to me that his $32 million guarantee is for both skill and injury, setting this deal apart Ferguson and Mangold.
This is the length and relative amounts the Jets wanted, a “bridge” contract to the potential home run that Schwartz and Feinsod were looking for. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was telling in his remarks: “This is an intermediate step in what we hope is an entire career of Darrelle as a Jet.” My sense is both the Jets and the Revis camp see this deal as a table-setter for a “lifetime deal” ahead, the home run that Schwartz and Feinsod originally set out to hit.
Fitzgerald the market setter
The deal that the Revis resolution compares most to the contract between the Arizona Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald.
In the 2008 offseason, Fitzgerald received a four-year deal worth $40 million with $30 million guaranteed. It was striking for obvious reasons – $10 million average with 75% of the deal fully guaranteed – but also for the short length, allowing Fitzgerald another bite at the free agency apple at age 29!
Revis now receives a deal modeled after the Fitzgerald deal, a deal the Jets had been using from the start in their negotiations as a data point, with 15% more, $6 million, over the four-years in total value and 6.7% more, $2 million, in guarantees.
The difference between Fitzgerald and Revis, along with two years of salary inflation, is leverage. Although both are probably the best players in football at their respective positions, Fitzgerald had an untenable two years left — escalated numbers of $16 and $17 million — on a rookie contract, putting the Cardinals in limbo with their entire roster until they resolved his contract.
Here the Jets, not Revis, had more leverage. Three years left on a contract is an eternity and the Jets could have acted as the Patriots and Chargers are and ignored Revis. Schwartz and Feinsod, who are also dealing with the Vincent Jackson situation with the Chargers, felt that dealing with the Jets was like a day at the beach compared to their non-negotiations with the Chargers.
All is forgiven
In the end, all is forgiven, including, no doubt, all those fines that were racked up. That will be considered a signing gift. The season will begin as if this messy little negotiation never happened.
Revis got a drastically upgraded contract from the one on which he was playing, albeit not to the extent that he and his agents felt he deserved. The Jets’ got their best player in without giving in to unreasonable demands, and have hopefully learned their lesson about what to say or not to say to players in the emotion of the moment, as players have selective hearing and long memories.
And hopefully they are able to look the rest of their team in the eye and convince them that tearing up a contract halfway through it was unique to Revis and not a precedent.
Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.
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