By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — If the Jets feel at ease with Mark Sanchez, they simply cannot feel the least bit at ease with Darrelle Revis.
Because all of their talk of due diligence on all fronts pertaining to improving this team has everything to do with money, not with production, and in all likelihood the front office is envisioning this franchise a few years down the road as opposed to in 2013.
I realize that there is no such thing as true rebuilding in the NFL. The league has been made of teams that, time and again, have found themselves turning things from bad to better in relatively short order. There will, however, always be those franchises that just don’t do anything right and are perennially changing general managers, head coaches and quarterbacks. You know of which teams I’m referring, the same teams that never make playoffs.
The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders of the world.
The Jets over the last decade-plus have not been this type of franchise. Overall, they have been highly competitive since Bill Parcells turned 1-15 from 1996 into 9-7 the next season and 12-4 and one bad half from the Super Bowl in ’98. In fact, since the ’96 low point in franchise history, the Jets have gone 134-126 and have made the playoffs seven out of 15 seasons, with three appearances in the AFC Championship game.
So the Browns, Raiders, and a host of others they haven’t been. The Jets have been a very good NFL franchise since ’96, but what has stained them has been when they’ve been bad they’ve been brutal, as evidenced by two 4-12 seasons, two 6-10s and a highly disappointing 8-8 campaign from two seasons ago. Other than those five forgettable seasons, the Jets have had 10 winning seasons in their last 15.
What’s more, from 2003 through 2008, the Jets turned 6-10 into 10-6, 4-12 into 10-6 and 4-12 into 9-7.
So this idea they they cannot again be very competitive following another bad year is just short-sighted.
The problem, though, is the Jets now find themselves in a salary cap situation unlike any they’ve experienced before. This fact is compounding the fear and loathing among their fans, and is forcing the front office to potentially make decisions based not on how it truly feels about certain players, but based solely on fiscal reality.
From what little I know about new GM John Idzik, I can surmise that he uses the power of positive thinking, but even all of his singing Kumbaya cannot erase the types of deals he has to make with the money devil at the expense of making everyone else feel confident going forward.
I’m sure there are many executives and coaches out there that would, given the perfect scenario, relish the opportunity to reinvent Sanchez. The problem is the Jets just don’t have that kind of latitude, given their standing as the second team in New York under an incredibly high-powered microscope, with fans frothing at the mouth for someone’s head beyond the spikes that currently adorn the perimeter of the castle in Florham Park following January’s house-cleaning.
So Idzik may say he’s “comfortable” with Sanchez, but just know he only is because of the likely immovable $8.5 million price tag that comes with this quarterback in 2013.
Forget for a second Idzik’s positive spin on Sanchez. Considering what we know it would be unreasonable for anyone to think the new GM wouldn’t say all the right things as they pertain to the current quarterback he has no choice but to keep. But you should hold Idzik accountable on his promise to make the quarterback situation a true competition going forward and that money will play no role in who starts. That means if someone of the Matt Moore ilk is not acquired in the offseason you’ll pretty much know Idzik cannot be trusted and is just another executive to tell you what you want to hear only to not come through when it matters.
Personally, I don’t think Idzik is that guy. I think he will make good on putting the Jets in a situation where they have better options at the position than solely Sanchez and Greg McElroy. The options out there may not be ideal, but there are some that make the Jets somewhat better.
Like I said earlier, the Sanchez and Revis philosophies have to go hand-in-hand. If the Jets know they have no choice but to keep Sanchez, then they have to know they really have no choice but to trade Revis. Again, it’s all about money and not the player’s abilities.
Idzik is a corporate culture guy, where dollars and cents trump emotions. I’ve read countless tweets from fans screaming bloody murder about the idea of trading Revis and I can’t blame them for feeling as they do, but, again, it’s all emotional. Very few fans have a real concrete plan on how keeping Revis can work. I’ve read a few columns from colleagues here at WFAN that support the Jets keeping Revis regardless of the cost, some quite passionate and with plenty of solid reasoning why you just don’t trade arguably the best player in the history of the franchise.
But from where I stand the Jets are so inept at the quarterback position and the cupboard is so barren at so many other positions it’s hard to justify bringing back in the current salary cap environment a player that will command likely $15 million per season and $50 million-$60 million guaranteed. The Jets’ projected cap number, according to nyjetscap.com, is $147 million for 2013. The NFL’s projected cap is expected to be slightly more than $120 million. You don’t need a math degree to figure out just how far the Jets are over the threshold right now. Add to that the fact that the Jets’ three highest-paid players — David Harris, Sanchez and Santonio Holmes — will count more than $41 million in dead money if cut and you can see why there’s little they can do with big ticket items to make the types of moves that will make them serious players in free agency.
What’s more, the Jets currently have at most a dozen players on the roster that they plan on counting on in a big way next season. Offensive linemen Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, defensive lineman Mike DeVito, safeties LaRon Landy and Yeremiah Bell, tight end Dustin Keller and running back Shonn Greene are all unrestricted free agents. The Jets will get under the cap by cutting defensive lineman Sione Pouha, offensive lineman Jason Smith, and linebackers Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas.
The problem, though, is the Jets currently do not have very many, if any, suitable replacements for any of them. Are you ready for Vladimir Ducasse and Bilal Powell and the like playing every down? If you are, well, you better completely rethink your expectations for 2013 and be ready to give everyone — from Rex Ryan to Idzik to Woody Johnson to the new coaching staff — a mulligan for next season.
The Jets have to rebuild this thing through the draft because, barring something completely unforeseen, will not have suitable cap space to sign anything more than maybe one difference-maker, when in reality they need several.
Which is why this front office cannot under any circumstances cave to overwhelmingly popular opinion and bring back Revis. This isn’t personal. If I had a choice I’d certainly want Revis playing for the Jets for the rest of his football life, but the reality of the direness of the situation on all fronts demands the Jets do the prudent thing and trade this guy for all they can get.
And I know an alternative popular sentiment is to trade high on Antonio Cromartie coming off the type of superlative season he had, but even on one leg Revis would bring back more, regardless if we’re talking about an established player or the type or number of draft picks.
I have to believe Idzik will pursue the Revis option, because, as I reported last week, the Jets had recent discussions with the Revis camp about a potential trade, granted likely without Idzik in the loop. Other reports surfaced later in the week that the Jets had begun planning for life after Revis long before he went down with a season-ending knee injury back in Week 3. Maybe the half-a-brain trust that survived the purge got proactive before Idzik was introduced. Who knows?
It doesn’t change the fact that Idzik has no choice right now but to be all about the money. Contracts like the one Revis wants are what got the Jets in this mess in the first place. Disgusting play at the most important position on the field made those decisions look a lot worse, but the QB situation won’t be dramatically improved this offseason to give anyone a feeling that the Jets could be significant in 2013 or have anyone in place to lead them forward beyond then.
There must be a sacrificial lamb if the Jets are to begin healing.
Revis has to go, no matter how painful it is for all involved, and Idzik knows it.
But if he doesn’t make the move that must be made, you’ll know the Jets wasted their time during the exhaustive GM search. Because any fan could throw big dollars at Revis just to make everyone happy in the short term.
Just like most fans don’t bother to think beyond the here and now.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
Trade him or keep him, what do you do with Darrelle Revis? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …