The Depressed Cornerback Market and Darrelle Revis

So what exactly is going on right now with the Jets and Darrelle Revis? It is clear that the Jets were at one point shopping him. There were far too many stories from too many sources for it to not be true. The other day it was reported by, I believe, Peter King that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are willing to give up a 1st and 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for Revis. Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News followed up with a report that the Buccaneers were willing to pay Revis $12-13 million a year. Last week the Jets seemed to have a soft deadline to trade Revis due to a $1 million dollar roster bonus that he earned at 4PM on March 17th. The day came and went and the Jets are now on the hook for $1 million in both cash and cap to a player who they are supposedly trading. Now word is that teams aren’t even sure if the Jets are really looking to move him. Weird isn’t it?

Old readers of mine from nyjetscap.com know my feelings on Revis and his relationship with the team. For new readers I don’t think there is any love lost between the organization and Revis. Revis has held them up twice now and was prepared to do it a third time last season before he realized that the Jets held all the contractual power in the world over him and he had no choice but to play on his current contract. When it was floated out there, even while injured, that Revis was again looking to be the highest paid defensive player in the NFL it more or less makes it a no brainer to trade him. The Jets were not a good team with Revis and allocating that kind of money to him is pointless given the teams situation.

However all of the posturing by Revis was based on an assumption that teams were willing to pay an incredible amount of money for his services.  Now paying the type of money Revis was looking for is fools gold for any corner, even one as great as Revis, but it would not stun me that a team would pay it. I mean the Raiders did it for Asomugha and the Bills did it last year for Mario Williams one of the most overrated pass rushers in the league. This year players lined up looking for big money in free agency but the market changed and nobody got the money.

This time last season the NFL cornerback market had 6 players with an APY over $10 million a season. 11 players were over $9 million and 17 players made over $8 million. The new market is 4 over $10 million, 7 over $9 million, and 11 over $8 million. Overall this is the new marketplace breakdown:

 

2013 Average APY

2012 Average APY

Percent Change

2013 Median APY

2012 Median APY

Percent Change

Top 5

$10,379,000

$10,906,200

-4.83%

$10,020,000

$10,750,000

-6.79%

Top 10

$9,658,633

$10,305,933

-6.28%

$9,750,000

$10,000,000

-2.50%

Top 16

$8,786,834

$9,670,511

-9.14%

$8,470,667

$9,636,667

-12.10%

Top 32

$6,911,929

$7,635,034

-9.47%

$6,583,334

$8,005,674

-17.77%

 

It is not as if one can argue that this was a bad market for corners this season. At least two corners, Sean Smith and Aqib Talib, were considered franchise tag candidates this offseason. Smith ended up getting a 3 year deal worth $5.5 million a season and Talib settled for a 1 year contract at $5 million. Brent Grimes, coming off injury, is still waiting to sign a contract. The best deal of the offseason may have been signed by Kyle Arrington, a hybrid number 2/slot cover corner that received $7.5 million in cash in the first year of his contract, the 2nd highest of any corner this season.

Comparing free agency last season with this one shows a startling picture of where the market is headed. Based on my own recollection (which may be off a bit) the biggest offseason deals signed in 2012, based on APY, were those of Brent Grimes, Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan, Ladarius Webb, and Stanford Routt. This years top 5 contracts are those of Cary Williams, Smith, Keenan Lewis, Chris Houston, and Talib. This is the average of the two classes:

 

Total

APY

Guaranteed

% Guaranteed

First Year Cash

2012

$35,676,200

$8,926,867

$15,079,200

42.3%

$9,619,200

2013

$17,810,000

$5,255,333

$7,118,000

40.0%

$6,573,000

Percent Change

-50.1%

-41.1%

-52.8%

-5.4%

-31.7%

 

It is a complete devaluation of the position in 2013. Teams just do not want to spend on it for a number of reasons ranging from the spread offense to the lack of a large number of dominant WR/QB combinations in the NFL. To think that will change next year is probably wrong. Right now you can get Chris Houston and Aqib Talib for less than it costs to get Revis alone. No matter how great Revis is from a cap standpoint he is a clear loser in this market.

My gut instincts tell me that when the Jets were out in Indianapolis putting feelers out there for Revis and also surveying the market in the first real, even if off the record, negotiating sessions they had a good idea of where teams were headed with the salary cap and positional spending. They knew the cornerback market had a good chance to collapse and that there would be few teams willing to entertain the type of money offers Revis wants. If the Jets do not pull a trade with the Buccaneers, one of the few teams that would be willing to meet Revis’ asking price, Revis is going to have to prove he is 100% healthy to get a decent payday. Even then if a team like the Bucs has a bad season they will likely not overspend for a Revis. That is a team that thinks they can compete, but another losing season and they will quickly change their outlook.

With all of this in mind this may be a situation where the Jets realize there is an opportunity to keep Revis in New York. The most I felt, pre-injury, a team should pay for Revis is $11.25 million based on some crude stat analysis but understood his standing in the NFL and thought that could max it between $12 and 13 million. While that would be overpaying it would not be so egregious that it destroyed your team financially. Now in this new marketplace the Jets may be thinking that by rolling the dice they can get Revis for $11-$12 million a season. Not only does that keep Revis a Jet but it keeps the fans happy with a team that has a bleak outlook in 2013 and gives the Jets a marketing tool as they struggle to sell out the upper deck of the stadium.

Financially the Jets can make this move if they need to. An interesting move that the Jets made a few weeks ago was the restructuring of CB Antonio Cromartie’s contract. Most thought nothing of it at the time since the Jets needed cap relief and he was an obvious candidate. What struck me as odd, though, was that the Jets did not extend him. By extending Cromartie they could have brought his cap number even lower and not dealt with the near $15 million dollar cap figure he has in 2014. With the way the market was at worst they would have extended him under the same $8 million APY of his current contract.

However had they extended him they were locking themselves into Cromartie as their future number 1. Releasing or trading him next season saves $9.5 million in cap room, more than enough to offset a Revis return. They would not have been able to release him if an extension was executed. So looking a bit deeper into that move may have been an indication that the Jets don’t see the door as closed on Revis as we all believe.

Now that doesn’t not mean the Jets wont trade him. I think the issue here is they need something in this years draft to move him. Waiting until next year where positioning and draftees are a complete unknown is not a reasonable return. All along I have said they need a 2nd this season and a potential 1 next year. I think if the Bucs made that offer tomorrow the Jets will take it. But if they don’t the Jets have a window now to get their corner under contract under their terms. The longer Revis waits the more chance there is that he gets re-injured or doesn’t look the same. The way the market is going proving he is 100% doesn’t mean $16 million anymore in free agency. It may not even mean $13 million. Unless the Jets are going to lowball him on an offer he can probably get almost as much now as he will after having a year like he had in 2010 or 2011. Is an extra $1 million a year worth that risk to him?  The Jets might think its not.

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  • http://twitter.com/DOSsquared David O’Shea

    Amazing how the worm turns… could Mr T have anticipated the of the rookie salary cap would drive down Vet prices? If revis signes for something reasonable, Cro could be back on the cheap in 14 too! With this possiblibility… OLB, OG, RB… life gets easier if we are not looking to add a corner…

    • matr dontelli iii

      david, i hardly think tannenbaum has done much to indicate he has the type of foresight you are creditting him with.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Jazz2756 Jazz Ross

        Agreed, Matr Dontelli III. There is nothing genius about the Jets’ current financial situation.

    • Mike

      Its not the rookie cap. Rookie cap drove up vet prices. That was the whole point. People like VJackson Percy Harvin are getting paid like they’re top 5 in the league. Look at Flacco. If you read the article, the CB market is dropping due to spread offenses which negate great cover corners. Just throw the other way. Avoid. That’s the reason. Read the article.

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  • matr dontelli iii

    jason, great article and tremendous insight regarding cromartie and the entire situation.

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  • stephenldidy@me.com

    People don’t realize the Cromartie aspect of it. He actually got a 1.97mm raise this year because both he, and his agent, realized he’s not going to see next year’s contract without renegotiating.