Rarely, if ever, do we see one of the best players at a certain position switch teams during the prime of their career. A few recent examples of this have been Julius Peppers with the Bears, and Peyton Manning with the Broncos, but in both of those cases the player involved was a free agent and their original team chose not to re-sign them.
We’d have to go all the way back to the ‘04 Redskins–Broncos blockbuster to find the last time a team traded an undisputed superstar while still under contract. Back when the Redskins flipped then 4x Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, along with a 2nd round pick, for the up and coming Clinton Portis. That trade didn’t completely backfire on the ‘Skins, seeing as they did get four highly productive seasons out of Portis. But then again he retired after the ’10 season, and Bailey is still going strong for Denver, having been named to eight of the past nine Pro Bowls.
We’re long overdue for a power shifting trade in the NFL, and with the Jets and Darrelle Revis’ tumultuous relationship once again on the rocks, we may be on the cusp of another block buster deal.
Revis is recovering from an ACL tear that sidelined him for much of the ’12 season, and hasn’t been shy about his desire for a pay raise. The lockdown corner is entering his seventh NFL season is looking to get franchise quarterback money, upwards of a nine figure deal. He’s on the books for $6 million next season, which admittedly is a steal for a player of his caliber, meaning we’re likely to see a third holdout in just four years from the disgruntled superstar.
New York is looking for a fresh start, having already cut ties with GM Mike Tannenbaum, Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano and long time defensive staples Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Jason Smith this offseason. If they were to break the bank with Revis, it would severely limit their possibility of fielding a competitive team around him.
The Jets proved last season that with or without Darrelle their secondary is still their biggest strength. Antonio Cromartie really elevated his level of play in Revis’ absence, anchoring a defensive unit that allowed the second fewest passing yards in the league. Moving Revis would free up a ton of cap space, allow the Jets to rebuild through the draft and give Kyle Wilson another opportunity to prove his worth. The only question is how much would a team be willing to give up for him?
Even if a team would be willing to deal multiple high end picks for his services, it’s still going to be a gamble because he’s returning from such a serious injury and will be demanding a cap-killing, long term deal. Unless his current contract can be restructured, a holdout is inevitable regardless of what team he plays for, and who is going to want to deal with that hassle?
If the right opportunity presents itself (say a first, third, fifth and conditional pick) the Jets would have to entertain the possibility of being banished from Revis Island, but it’s important that they get as close to fair market value as possible, which is going to be easier said than done.
Furthermore, if a deal involving draft picks does get done the Jets will have to be extra meticulous in their scouting to make sure they don’t whiff on another high end pick. The ghost of Vernon Gholston past still looms heavy at the Meadowlands, and if they were to trade away the face of their franchise (while keeping the gut of their franchise, Rex) and get nothing of value in return, it would cripple their chances of success for the next half decade.
The good news for the Jets is that they still have plenty of time to weigh all of their options before the season kicks off next September. If the price is right for Revis, I don’t think New York balks at a chance to rid themselves of another locker room distraction. But if he’s still on the team come training camp, Woody Johnson better get ready to open up that check book, because we’ve all seen this episode with #24 before, and we know how it plays out.