The Darrelle Revis contract that contains no guaranteed money is one of the most surprising turn of events I can ever recall. I understand his desire to be the highest paid player on defense but to give up guaranteed salary is quite the surprise for a number of reasons and I wanted to address some of the topics I have been reading on Twitter.
First of all I don’t consider the fact that the no guarantees was simply a form of injury protection for the Buccaneers. You can guarantee contracts for skill and salary cap terminations which would still allow the Buccaneers to drop Revis if the injury he sustained is so severe that he can not play. You can also have the player sign an injury waiver where his money is protected unless an injury occurs to the same damaged area of his body, in this case his knee.
In my mind this was more of the ability of the Buccaneers to flex their muscle and get full protection in the event that Revis is no longer a top echelon player or the team is no good. They knew that nobody else in the NFL would have given Revis this type of salary and really there is no team in the NFL that has the cap structure and willingness to spend to absorb a player like Revis other than the Buccaneers. It was the only match.
If Revis really thought that he could get more money by proving he was the same player he would have simply turned down the offer. The Bucs can tell you that they explained the situation to he and his agents about how they cant give up two high picks and large guarantees, as reported by SI’s Peter King, but that doesn’t hold water. The Jets explained multiple times to Revis about how the rookie salary he earned was slotted far above his original draft position. Revis rightfully argued that didn’t matter. The Jets explained that the Nnamdi Asomugha contract was an outlier, very publically on Hard Knocks in fact, and Revis argued it didn’t matter. Revis didn’t ask for a trade. The fact that the Bucs wanted him shouldn’t have mattered, but now we are supposed to believe that the player felt bad for the Buccaneers? No chance.
Outside of the annual value tradeoff Revis really got nothing out of the contract. If we take this as a brand new contract, as all sides seem to be, the cash flows in the contract don’t compare to those of Mario Williams, the other $16 million dollar a year player. The reality is the first three years of cash flows are similar to those of star players like DeMarcus Ware who had deals that earned less than $13.5 million a season.
For Revis to really be considered a significantly more valued player than Ware (or even Clay Matthews or Terrell Suggs for that matter) he has to make it to the 4th year of his contract. It is at that point where he significantly jumps Ware and begins to close the gap on the Williams contract. That would be considered highly unlikely since Revis has no prorated protection in his contract. Ware was virtually guaranteed to earn $40 million as was Williams. Williams had a much better chance of earning the full $53 million due to dead money charges upwards of $17 million in his third contract season.
In terms of percentage of contract paid out in the first three years Revis hits at an even 50%, lowest among the core defensive players, which I think indicates that the Buccaneers probably put a real value on him closer to what you would pay a $13.8-14 million dollar a year player on the front end of the contract.
% Contract Paid in 3 Years
It is a very risky contract for Revis. I have seen people saying that he is functionally guaranteed at least $32 million, or the first two years salary of his contract. I disagree. NFL owners are not in the business of giving money away if it is not working. If they were they would not have squashed the union in their last set of negotiations. Revis isn’t just betting on himself being healthy but also on those around him being good.
The Buccaneers last season were 7-9, with a questionable QB and a porous secondary. The team spent a lot of money trying to fix that secondary signing Revis and S Dashon Goldson, but what happens if the team again finishes around that 0.500 mark? The Buccaneers are built to win now and their contracts are structured in a way to simply move on if things go south.
Besides the QB being a free agent next season the Buccaneers can save themselves $38.4 million in cash salary obligations for only $7.96 million in dead money charges by releasing Revis, Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, and Vincent Jackson. It is a real question that could be faced by the Buccaneers- retool for one last run via free agency or rebuild? The ages of the other three I mentioned during the 2014 season are all 31, not players kept in a rebuild. Revis would be 29 and if you are going with a new QB and getting rid of some core players as you rebuild would one keep a $16 million dollar a year cornerback who will be 30 or 31 by the time the rebuild is effective? It is the same dilemma that the Jets faced and the answer is likely not.
I doubt in the grand scheme of thing Revis’ contract means anything to future negotiations. No player in their right mind should trade cash now for potential cash 4 and 5 years down the line. Most of those players are out of the league by the time year 4 and 5 comes around. Some corners play effectively forever such as Champ Bailey, but I just think it’s a risk that a player of Revis’ stature didn’t need to take. Maybe in the new market the money simply wasn’t there unless this structure happened but I would take the $40 million guaranteed over two years rather than the hope of $64 million over 4 and shave a little off the total value of the deal. Time will tell if he made the right choice.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.