With Darrelle Revis’ struggles becoming more pronounced by the week, his contract for next year has become a hot topic of discussion. Revis was signed in 2015 to a five year, $70 million contract with nearly $40 million in guarantees to help correct what many felt was a mistake made by the Jets in 2013. It didn’t take long for most to notice in 2015 that this version of Revis was a far cry from the 2009/10 version that was the best defender in the NFL, but in 2016 he looks like a shell of a player. The Jets have not even finished paying the guaranteed portion of the contract but they are clearly going to have to consider moving on next year. It’s possible that this will mark the end of Revis’ career, at least as a cornerback, and should certainly mark the end of his run as the highest paid player at his position. So what are the options for Revis and the Jets?
Next year Revis carries a $15.3 million cap charge which is second among corners in the NFL to only Josh Norman of the Redskins. The cap charge is made up of a $13 million salary, $2 million roster bonus, and $333,333 option bonus proration, which would actually not be earned until after the 2017 season is complete. $6 million of his salary is guaranteed for the year, meaning the Jets would have to pay him $6 million if they released him from his contract for any normal football reason.
The $6 million figure would also be the total dead money that the Jets would absorb if he was cut (the site shows a different number based on his option bonus being earned) prior to the start of the 2017 league year. That would be a $9.3 million savings on the cap for the Jets while saving themselves $9 million in non-guaranteed salary.
Revis’ dead money number is not as bloated as some other players, such as Muhammad Wilkerson’s, because the Jets used no signing bonus in his contract and resisted the urge to restructure his contract this year despite a $17 million cap charge, which was about $2.2 million higher than any other corner in the NFL. This was a shrewd move by the Jets who struggled with the salary cap all season long but instead decided to do small restructures with the likes of Marcus Gilchrist, Buster Skrine, and James Carpenter. That kind of tells you what the Jets front office thought of Revis going into the season as 90% of the time teams restructure the contracts of stars for cap space. Had they restructured the contract they would be looking at well over $13M in cap charges for releasing him next year. Still that makes it odder that they did little to give him help early in the year or give major consideration to a positional move.
While the $6 million guarantee can make things tricky for the Jets, as that is a large amount of money to pay to a player you no longer have on the team, the cap and cash savings alone should make that a reasonable figure to absorb. The Jets currently project to be over the cap in 2017 and that would help them gain some cap room next year.
That said it is not a contract that the Jets can use to make the team cap compliant as some may think. The NFL requires all teams to be under the cap on the first day of free agency, which marks the start of the new NFL league year. Dead money from a salary guarantee is treated differently than dead money from a bonus in that it accelerates into the current league year, which will be the 2016 season. The Jets do not have enough cap room to cut Revis in 2016, which will technically run through the start of free agency. So unless they tweak his contract by paying him a bonus odds are he won’t be released until after free agency starts and the Jets will have to count his $15.3M cap hit up until the first day of free agency.
The one option that Revis will not consider, at least initially, is official retirement even if it has been suggested by some fans. If Revis were to walk away from the NFL he would be walking away from that $6 million salary guarantee, which no player would do. So he will force the Jets hand before he were to announce any retirement.
If Revis insists that he will still play in the NFL I think it adds another layer to the Jets decision which they should, but are not, acting proactively on. Revis has already indicated that he could see himself transitioning to safety which is a move that has prolonged the careers of other cornerbacks. Between interviews and just the way he plays he is practically begging the Jets to move him. The Jets have no idea if Revis can play safety but if they cut him it will likely mean they are paying Revis to play for another team, which could include division rivals Miami and Buffalo, both of whom have ties to Revis with Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan both having power with those teams.
The way the contract is written the $6 million guarantee contains an offset clause which gives the Jets the right to recover any salary, up to $6 million, that Revis will earn from another team in 2017. What that means is that unless Revis earns more than $6 million, his compensation is maxed out. Since it is doubtful that any other team in the NFL would pay Revis more than $6 million based on how poor he has looked at cornerback the last two years, there would be no incentive to pay him more than the minimum, which is around $1 million for the year. If he was successful at safety playing for $1 million while the Jets pay him an additional $5 million, it would look like the Jets handed him on a silver platter to a rival
The Jets have their moments where they do certain things that seem to be fueled more by perception outside the team and this is going to be something that come January the business end of the Jets bring up as a real possibility of ending up with egg on their face. That could very well lead to the team preferring to try to renegotiate Revis’ contract and simply move him to safety next year. Historically contract talk with Revis has never been easy, though he was always coming from a position of power because of how good he was. Ideally the Jets would want to bring his salary down next year to $6 million and bring down his salaries for 2018 and 2019 from the $22 million number that stands there now.
With the Jets being so bad this year and looking to go back to a rebuilding effort Revis would have no real incentive to finish his career with the Jets when he could find work elsewhere. He may only want to remain with the Jets if his three year contract averaged around $10.5 million a year, which would then rank him among the highest paid safeties in the NFL. That would make little sense for the Jets, but given the way the Jets have made some last minute concessions to players on contract issues it can’t be ruled out. The Jets will need to make a decision on Revis by the 2nd day of free agency, at which point he will earn a $2 million roster bonus, which is in addition to his $6 million guaranteed salary.
With all of that in mind the Jets are doing themselves a disservice by not proctively moving Revis to safety for the remainder of this year. Why the Jets didn’t do this during their bye week is something I don’t understand and after he was beaten by a 4th round draft pick with a grand total of 15 receptions to lose on Sunday I don’t know what reason they have for not at least trying it now. At least this way the team not only has all the information possible before they make a decision on his contract in the future, but the business end of things will also get to see if he can or can not play a different position. If he looks like he cant play then the decision to cut becomes easy. If he can play the position you have a real understanding of what the contract should look like.
The decline of Revis will likely mark the end of one of the great contract runs of modern times. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald and maybe Ndamukong Suh, there has been no non-quarterback in the NFL that has been able to win in the contract game as much as Revis. From his first holdout as a rookie in 2007 to being able to negotiate a $39 million guarantee in 2015 after being effectively given up on by three teams (the Jets, Buccaneers, and Patriots) in three seasons he is one of the few players that has been able to beat the system that generally favors teams. You can never count him completely out, and maybe that financial wizardry can continue, but it’s unlikely that any second career happens with the Jets.
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.