By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback of his generation, may be done. If he is not done, then he’s at least very firmly in a new era of his career, one where he’ll either be a close-to-average cornerback or perhaps a corner-turned-safety as he enters his mid-30s.
It is the way of life in the NFL, a league buoyed by the influx of cheap, young talent every year, and a league that makes it very difficult for non-quarterbacks to make a tremendous amount of money in their careers.
On that point, however, Revis has managed to be the exception. From the moment he entered the league, Revis has been about one thing above all else: Getting the most money he possibly could get from the New York Jets. Of course, there is a performance component to that quest, and in that endeavor, Revis excelled for quite some time. Hence, the hefty salaries.
Yet now, in the wake of the Jets unceremoniously cutting ties with Revis after just two seasons of what was supposed to be a glorious reunion, there is one funny factoid about New York’s second football team and the all-time great corner.
The Jets employed Revis from the time he was 22 years old until he was 27 years old. He suffered a concussion and then a torn knee after playing just two games in that age 27 season, so really they only had him from ages 22 through 26. They then traded him to Tampa Bay, where he played for a year before being picked up by the Patriots at age 29.
It was then that the Jets pounced on the free agent, violating tampering rules along the way in a frenzy to get their star back on the roster.
They succeeded, getting him for his age 30 and 31 seasons.
The humorous part, if you’re one who can enjoy a laugh or two at the Jets’ expense, is this: the Jets paid Revis over $96 million in his career, and that’s without having him on the roster for what is generally considered the prime of a player’s career. They had him as a rising star, and they had him as an older (occasionally washed-up-looking) veteran, and they paid a premium for it.
In the interim, the Buccaneers paid him $16 million to essentially use the 2013 season to rehab on the field. And the Patriots paid him just $12 million for 2014, which turned out to be Revis’ final season as a true No. 1 cornerback.
Here’s a look at how that broke down by year in terms of cash earned (numbers from Spotrac):
2007: $5.32 million
2008: $5.08 million
2009: $6.26 million
2010: $8.04 million
2011: $25 million
2012: $7.5 million
2013: $16 million
2014: $12 million
2015: $16.01 million
2016: $17 million
2017: $6 million
And if you can look at the cap hit chart below, it’s very evident which team played it smart when it came to Revis … and which team did not.
Basically, what you’re seeing is that there’s a reason that Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick, and there’s a reason that the Jets are the Jets. The willingness (and, at times, the desire) to throw piles of money at Revis at every opportunity is indicative of a team that doesn’t always manage its finances well.
For some history: Revis held out as a rookie, after the Jets traded three draft picks to move up and get him at No. 14 overall. Without having played one down in the NFL, Revis played hardball. In the process, he guaranteed himself a whole lot of money.
Just three seasons later, Revis wanted that contract torn up. And he wasn’t willing to go to work until he had a new one. After missing training camp, just in time for the regular season, the Jets relented and guaranteed $32 million to Revis. The Jets would get just 31 games — and 18 victories — out of Revis on that contract before trading him.
Two years later, after Revis became a Super Bowl champion with the Jets’ hated divisional rival, the team sought to make up for lost time by offering Revis an utterly irresponsible five-year, $70 million contract, with $39 million guaranteed. As evidenced by the abrupt ending to Revis’ Jets career this week, and as evidenced by the Jets’ 15-17 record in that time, it proved to be money poorly spent.
And though the Jets achieved some success early in the Revis era in 2009 and 2010, that cap mismanagement came back to haunt them. In fact, it still does to this day.
In any event, perhaps Revis will play again, or perhaps he’ll retire. But whatever he does, this much is known: no team will ever come close to the Jets when it comes to spending millions upon millions of dollars on Revis with very little to show for it.