A new league year is almost upon us and according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Darrelle Revis won’t be happy if he is asked to play out his current contract in 2015. The gist of the PFT article is typical of most of the issues that Revis had as a member of the Jets for many years in which a contract is signed by both parties but Revis has a very different understanding of the context of the contract.
Since 2010, Revis’s side has lobbied hard for certain contract metrics pertaining to being the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. In 2010 he held out from the Jets in an attempt to exceed the 3 year, $45 million contract signed by Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders. At the time Revis still had three seasons remaining under contract to the Jets. Asomugha’s contract was also considered an outlier by every team in the NFL due to the Raiders handling of contracts at the time.
After some pleading from his coach Rex Ryan to get a deal done the Jets agreed to sign Revis to a new four year contract. The compromise was that the Jets would not match the annual value of the Asomugha contract but woould hit a two year payout of $32.5 million that would esentially mimic the cash flows of the Asomugha deal. In order to get the Jets to agree to the contract Revis had to agree to very strict contract language regarding holdouts in the future. To fit Revis under the salary cap the Jets had to add a number of voidable contract years to prorate a large bonus paid in 2011.
Almost immeiately upon signing the contract Revis described the deal as a “band-aid contract” that he felt was a two year contract that would be revisited in 2012. That logic flew in the face of everything contained in the actual contract but it was picked up nationally as fact. In 2012 Revis’ team sent out feelers about the reaction to another Revis holdout. The Jets more or less let it be known that would not be tolerated and if he held out reminded him that the voidable years of his contract would be contractually replaced with a number of low cost seasons. Revis was injured that season and with more holdout talk occuring in 2013 he was traded to the Buccaneers for a first round pick.
With Tampa Bay Revis received what he wanted from the Jets in 2010- a contract with an annual value of $16 million. There was a catch however to this contract as well- Revis would receive absolutely no guarantees in the contract, making it possible to release him after just one season with no adverse impact on the Buccaneers salary cap. This is very rare for big name players and specifically for the Buccaneers who, at the time, were guaranteeing a minimum of two years worth of salary for their free agent acquisitions. But this was the way to $16 million a year. Despite an extremely different cash breakdown that the contract he was now hoping to match signed by Mario Williams Revis got his number.
Following his release from Tampa the market seemed somewhat lukewarm for Revis, who at the least was one of the two best cornerbacks in the NFL. After unsuccessfully trying to draw his former team of te Jets o the negotiating table Revis agreed to terms with the Patriots. The Patriots were only willing to pay Revis $12 million for his season with the team. That number was a far cry from the $16 million he earned the year before and the contracts that were going to be signed by the young crop of corners (Sherman, Peterson, and Haden). To make the deal happen Revis needed a funny money year that would count for $25 million against the salary cap. That contract year pushed the annual value of the contract to (you guessed it) $16 million.
According to Florio the contract year was always designed to be a placeholder, a term recently used by Jonathan Kraft as well:
From the player’s perspective, the second year was aimed at allowing the Patriots to divide the signing bonus over two years, for cap purposes. So, from the player’s perspective, the potential alternatives are: (1) sign a new contract with the Patriots; or (2) be released by March 9 and sign a new deal elsewhere
The problem with the quote is that there were plenty of mechanisms that would allow the Patriots to divide the bonus over two seasons without the need for a high priced option year. The void year used by the Jets would have been a simple mechanism that would split the bonus over two years. In this case Revis either signs a new contract with New England or becomes a free agent on March 10, meeting both items from the players perspective described above. The catch is that using the void year would have seen Revis’ contract properly valued as a 1 year contract worth $12 rather than $16 million. I’d imagine that the second “placeholder” year had more to do with Revis’ wants than the Patriots at the time of signing.
Now Revis finds himself with the possibility of being asked to play out the season next year rather than finding a long term deal with another team, possibly the cash heavy Jets or eager to improve Bills. While the $25 million cap charge is ridiculous, the $20 million salary may be viewed as reasonable by the Patriots if they feel it is important to keep Revis.
Since signing his new contract the dynamics of the cornerback market changed. I believe that was always anticipated by Revis’ agents when they agreed to the one year deal, assuming the $25 million cap cost was enough to push Revis to free agency in a market that was more agreeable to spend on the position than they were the year before. If we look at the new money cash flows of the cornerback contracts you will see some interesting numbers:
The numbers here are staggering and it is likely that a long term deal with Revis would see him landing more than $35 million over a two year period and likely more than $20 million in the first year of his deal. So from the Patriots perspective if they really want Revis but dont care about the long term with him the $20 million is not as unreasonable as first thought, nor is the $32 million from a two year perspective.
Only time will tell if Revis is forced into a 2015 year with the Patriots and if there are any fireworks along the way, but his last two contracts should prove an example for people to study about the negative tradeoffs that can happen when agreeing to certain contract structures.