Jets Have Big Plans for Revis, Just No Contract
Eventually, Darrelle Revis will sign a contract with the Jets.
But Revis, a rookie cornerback, hasn't signed on the dotted line yet, and that's a big problem for the Jets, who expected a major contribution from Revis this season when they traded first- and second-round picks in the NFL draft to select him.
In fact, no NFL team is counting on a bigger contribution this season from its first-round draft pick than the Jets, who expect Revis to start at cornerback and bolster their special teams in his first season. Other players were chosen higher in April's draft than Revis, who went 14th overall, but none of those players are expected to fill two big holes for a team coming off a playoff berth.
Revis's holdout, which is now in its second week, isn't based on the amount of money he'll make. The 13th pick in this year's draft, St. Louis Rams defensive end Adam Carriker, signed a contract with $9.4 million guaranteed and the 15th pick, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackerLawrenceTimmons, signed a contract with $8 million guaranteed. If money were the issue, the Jets and Revis could split the difference between the Carriker and Timmons contracts and agree on a guarantee of $8.7 million.
But the problem between the Jets and Revis is that the team is insisting he sign a six-year contract. Revis wants to limit his deal to five years. If Revis becomes as good a player as the Jets think he will, he'll get a big free-agent deal when his rookie contract expires. Revis and agent Neil Schwartz want to cash in as soon as possible, while the Jets want to hold onto his rights as long as they can. Contracts as long as six years are permitted under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union, but most first-round picks sign five-year deals.
There's no such thing as a 5.5-year contract in the NFL, so there's not much middle ground. And one complicating factor is that Schwartz represents guard Pete Kendall, who is also in a contract dispute with the Jets. No compromise seems imminent.
By insisting that Revis sign a six-year contract, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is following the lead of the New England Patriots, who in the past have angered some of their draft choices (and the players' agents) by refusing to permit first-round picks to sign five-year deals. But so many agents view six-year contracts as unfair that such deals have almost completely vanished: Not a single rookie has signed a six-year contract yet this year.
Revis is one of seven unsigned first-round picks around the NFL. The others are Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell (the first overall pick), Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (second), Arizona Cardinals tackle Levi Brown (fifth), Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn (22nd), Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (23rd), and Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason (25th).
Jets coach Eric Mangini has big plans for Revis: He thinks Revis can become the kind of shutdown cornerback that Ty Law was when Mangini served as secondary coach for the Patriots. But as his holdout stretches on, it becomes increasingly unlikely that Revis will make that kind of contribution this year. In Revis's absence, Hank Poteat, David Barrett, and Justin Miller are competing for the starting cornerback spot across the field from Andre Dyson, and while all three have their strengths, the Jets drafted Revis to start from Week 1. That probably won't happen.
The good news is that Revis could skip the Jets' entire training camp and still be an integral part of their special teams. Revis is a talented punt returner, and punt returning is a job that relies more on instinct than film study or practice time, so even if he continues his holdout through August, he could be ready to return punts as long as he joins the team before the regular season starts.
The Jets don't even want to think about a scenario in which Revis hasn't signed before the September 9 opener against the Patriots, but if they don't give any ground, that scenario is possible. In 1997, defensive lineman Sean Gilbert staged one of the longest holdouts in NFL history, sitting out the entire season in a contract dispute with the Washington Redskins. The next season Gilbert signed a lucrative contract with the Carolina Panthers. Revis no doubt knows all about that story of an NFL player whose holdout paid off in the end: Gilbert is Revis's uncle.
A holdout spanning the entire season, though, is extremely unlikely. Skipping the year and reentering the draft in 2008 would defeat the purpose of Revis's holdout � he'd sign a five-year contract with the team that drafts him next year and become a free agent at the same time as he would if he signs a six-year contract with the Jets this year. And although Tannenbaum is stubborn, he's not about to throw away his prized draft pick. Revis and the Jets will get a deal done. But with every day they wait, Revis becomes a little less prepared to help the Jets get back to the playoffs this year.
Mr. Smith is a contributing editor for FootballOutsiders.com.