In a moved that surprised few, the New York Jets traded All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday for a first-round pick in this year’s draft (the 13th pick overall) and a conditional draft pick next year. Tampa Bay then signed Revis to a new contract, a six-year deal worth $96 million, but none of that money is guaranteed, due to the fact that Revis is coming off of season-ending ACL surgery and the leverage that Revis’ existing contract provided him when it came time to negotiate with the Jets. It’s by far the biggest trade of the offseason so far, and has repercussions that will be felt throughout the league.
For the Buccaneers, it’s a fantastic trade. Last season, their pass defense left a lot to be desired; they were 26th in the league in team Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) against the pass, and struggled with their pass rush, sacking opposing quarterbacks on just 4.1 percent their dropbacks, second-worst in the league. While Revis isn’t a great pass rusher himself (his strength is, and always has been, in one-on-one coverage), his presence on the roster frees up the rest of his teammates to make runs at the quarterback. Having him and the Buc’s other big off-season signing, Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, in the same secondary opens up coordinator Bill Sheridan’s playbook and immediately makes the Tampa Bay defense a formidable unit.
All of that, of course, conditionally depends on the status of Revis’ knee. Though he passed a physical in advance of his new deal with Tampa Bay, the specifics of the deal show that the Buccaneers wanted to cover themselves in case he isn’t able to become the player he once was. The six-year deal is not guaranteed, and has a flat $13 million-per-year pay rate. It essentially will serve as a stopgap; if Revis is a shell of his former self, they could get rid of him in two seasons and not suffer any financial consequences. If he gets back to 100%, his situation could be reexamined as soon as next offseason. Fortunately, Revis’ injury was just to his ACL, and the rest of his knee didn’t suffer any trauma. The success of players like Adrian Peterson after similar knee injuries means that the mental and physical trials that accompany knee injuries aren’t as dire as they were even a few short years ago.
The mental trials for Jets fans, however, continue in earnest. Losing Revis is just the latest in a long series of heartbreaks that culminated in several laughingstock moments in the waning weeks of the regular season. The Revis situation has its roots in the contract he signed with the team back before the 2010 season, which included a clause that kept Revis from being franchise tagged after the 2013 season. That, coupled with the Jets’ dire salary cap situation (which, this year, will include a $12 million penalty against the cap for Revis), forcing the negotiation that culminated yesterday in his move to Florida.
The Jets are without question in rebuilding mode. The tenure of former General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is a financial albatross, but gathering draft picks in 2013 and 2014 could help the Jets build from scratch. Something else that may reassure Jets fans is that New York’s passing defense was still stellar last year even after Revis was lost for the season, and the defense overall was ninth in the league in total DVOA. The offense is a mess, but Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind, despite everything that has happened to the team, so the Jets, though certainly not a playoff team, may cause a little more trouble than people think.
When the Jets and Buccaneers meet at MetLife Stadium in Week 1, Revis is likely to hear a chorus of boos and other, much less printable turns of phrase. However, he just got the chance to join a team that is on the rise in the NFC, and get out of the media circus that surrounds the Jets, so he probably won’t be able to hear any of it.