Ever since Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio floated a story last weekend that the Patriots or Broncos could possibly pry prized cornerback Darrelle Revis from the sinking ship known as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, talking heads across New England have been online trying to buy timeshares on Revis Island.
As for me, I think it’s an overrated, overpriced getaway where I’d much prefer to rent than buy.
Okay, enough with the metaphors. Revis is regarded as arguably the top corner in the NFL for a reason. In the 28-year-old’s first five years with the hated Jets, he was a 3-time All-Pro and drew comparisons to the likes of Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, and Ty Law. On the field, he made man-coverage a science.
A torn ACL and a trade to the Bucs later, Revis is coming off of his fifth 16-game regular season and a Comeback Player of the Year honor. He wasn’t at the top of his game last year as he continued to recover from the knee injury that shattered his final season in New York, and it was reflected in part in the numbers. Revis intercepted two passes and deflected 11 while his 4-win club finished 17th in the league in passing yards against (237.9 yards per game) and 18th in deflected passes (73).
Along the way, the highly-regarded corner was paid $16 million. He’s due the same figure for each of the next five seasons, though none of that remaining $80 mil is guaranteed.
Most of the folks who have spent days packing their bags and loading up on sunscreen for a trip to the Island are all too ready to bid a fond farewell to the injury-plagued Aqib Talib if it means relocating Revis to Foxborough. Depending on the reports you opt to read, acquiring Revis would not only cost the Kraft’s more than they could purchase a real island for, but also draft pick compensation ranging from a first to a third-rounder.
Like most, I find it hard to believe a move of this ilk would ever occur. Historically, the Patriots are not a franchise that deals picks for top talent dragging sacks of money, even if they could afford it with some cap creativity. They’ll spend; but they pay their guys.
Ignoring that fact, I question what exactly Revis has left in the tank and whether he can be that same ultra-effective shutdown corner he was for all those years that he tormented Tom Brady to the point where the Pats’ QB called him the best he’s ever faced.
I’m also concerned about the baggage.
Revis isn’t perfect. His ego is as big as his play-making ability. The Pittsburgh product has already held out multiple times in camps related to contract negotiations, which ultimately resulted in him garnering the most lucrative contract for a defensive back in NFL history. When asked about Patriots coach Bill Belichick in interviews throughout his career, the outspoken star has used words like “jerk”, “ignorant”, and “disrespectful”. Most recently, early in his Tampa tenure, Revis butted heads with later canned coach Greg Schiano. If you’re a Pats fan, I probably don’t have to describe for you the relationship between Belichick and Schiano. They might actually vacation together.
Some who cover the Bucs have hypothesized that Revis clashed with Schiano because the coach was hard-nosed and rigid in nature, stringent with his rules unlike Gang Green yuckster Rex Ryan, who’s largely viewed as more of a player’s coach.
In which category would you opt to place Belichick?
Should the Pats overlook his past transgressions and bank on talent, you can bet Revis wouldn’t restructure a penny of his contract to make it happen. The Patriots, as well outlined by the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, could convert some of Revis’s salary to bonus money and potentially cost themselves more in the long run if it didn’t work out, but there’s no chance he’d eat some of his cash to play somewhere with a better chance to win. He’s about financial standing first, team second.
Talib’s an interesting case. To no surprise, New England didn’t franchise their second-team All-Pro for $11.8 million – a tag that represented more than double his 2013 earnings. For the next few days, the Pats will presumably attempt to negotiate a new deal with their defense-altering corner before he inevitably hits free agency.
Most pundits expect the Dolphins’ deal with Brent Grimes of four years and $32 million with $16 mil guaranteed to shape Talib’s value on the open-market, though I’m not so sure. Grimes is smaller and three years older, but lacks Talib’s injury history. The latter’s recurring hip issue – which forced him out of the last two AFC championship games early – could prevent teams from wishing to commit long-term when a shorter multi-year deal may suffice. It’s not unreasonable to think the Pats could retain Talib for two or three years at around $9 million annually and perhaps roughly the same guaranteed dollars.
Talib is also linked to his own laundry list of off-the-field issues but, fortunately, he’s been nothing but a model citizen with an affable demeanor in his time as a Patriot. If healthy for the last year-and-a-half, he’d probably already be under contract long-term.
This doesn’t have to be an argument of Player A vs. Player B.
Is Talib as good a player as Revis? Well, he does have two more interceptions (23 to 21) in 18 fewer career regular season games. He was also on track for Defensive Player of the Year consideration through the opening five games last season before getting hurt…again.
But, no, Talib is not Revis, if Revis returns to top form a full season removed from ACL surgery. That expectation, however, is an uncertainty and it comes at a lofty price – one that exceeds the seasonal worth of a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback who’s on the books for $14.8 million in 2014.
Now, maybe Brady wouldn’t mind someone vaulting him on the payroll if it means putting a player of his caliber on the other side of the ball. But, it’s also possible he’d prefer a known, likeable, and proven commodity in Talib, along with another talented player. Talib won’t cost $16 million. That means money (maybe $6 mil or so) leftover for a pass-rusher, a safety, or – sorry, Tom’s shouting from a mountaintop right now – a receiver who stands taller than six feet. Plus, in the spirit of value, the Pats could retain the pick that would otherwise be required in a Revis swap. That’s a potential three-for-one for a team plagued by depth last season.
In the end, since none of the local guys have linked Revis to New England, this may be nothing but fascinating fodder on the part of Florio. The Bucs are well under the cap and have no need to rid themselves of Revis, but doing so by March 13 would save them $1.5 million on his roster bonus and draft pick consideration owed to the Jets on the original trade. So, why not look to a team in need of a shutdown defender?
My gut tells me Revis won’t move, much the same as I believe the Patriots will find a little something in the piggy bank to re-sign Talib and preserve their picks and cap space.
I could be in the minority, but that’s my preference. Talib may not have an Island, but he covers a whole lot of territory.
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Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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