By Steve Lichtenstein
» More Columns
Jets’ history is littered with tragedies, and the fall from grace of future Hall of Fame cornerback Darrelle Revis is just more piling on.
In a story broken on Tuesday night by New York Post reporter Brian Costello, Gang Green has informed the 31-year-old Revis that they will be releasing him when the new league year begins on March 9.
The Jets’ brass made the right call to sail away from Revis Island, the one place on a football field where they once could count on excellence. In this story, though, there is no happy ending for anyone — Revis, the Jets, or their fans.
Revis will now be a free agent, which at various points in his career seemed to be his professional life’s mission. However, it’s a lot tougher for a player on the downside of his career to find employment at his desired compensation, especially when he’s facing criminal court dates. Revis was arrested and arraigned following an alleged altercation with two Pittsburgh men early in the morning on Feb. 12.
Then again, while the timing suggests that Revis’ upcoming pretrial hearing was a factor in his release, does anyone really believe that the Jets wouldn’t have waited for this to play out if Revis was still in another stratosphere at his position? Some reports indicated that the evidence of Revis’ culpability was somewhat sketchy.
No, I believe the reports from ESPN’s Rich Cimini that this was strictly a football decision. NFL teams tend to tolerate the bad boys who can play. The Jets have somehow forgiven all of Sheldon Richardson’s sins, probably because they viewed him as a potential stud defensive lineman.
Revis was due to count $15,333,333 against New York’s salary cap in 2017. That’s an exorbitant amount for a player who not only got roasted last season by the A.J. Greens of the NFL wide receiver community, but by second- and third-stringers as well.
According to Pro Football Focus, Revis allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.7 percent of their passes to receivers he covered last season, a 20-percent jump from 2015. Their quarterback rating nearly doubled, from 56.5 to a league-high 108, per NFL Research.
By cutting Revis, the Jets will save at least $9.3 million against next season’s cap. Revis is due a $6 million guarantee in 2017 (which reportedly will not be challenged by the Jets in the wake of his arrest), but that amount, with the corresponding dead money salary cap charge, can be reduced by any salary Revis earns next season.
The Revis release is in line with general manager Mike Maccagnan’s Jets’ Makeover, The Sequel. When he took over the job from miserly John Idzik prior to the 2015 season, Maccagnan flooded the free agent market with cash to upgrade the talent, including Revis. Two playoffs-less campaigns later, Maccagnan is now reversing course.
Replacing all those positions is no easy task, however, and even Revis on a down year is superior to a lot of what’s out there. And at this moment the Jets aren’t exactly brimming with quality cornerbacks on their roster.
Even after last season’s meltdown, Revis should still be considered the best defensive player to ever wear a Jets uniform. A first-round draft choice in 2007, Revis earned first-team All-Pro honors in three consecutive seasons from 2009-11.
Without Revis, there was no way the Jets get to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. Former head coach Rex Ryan’s designs for his attacking defenses were based on Revis’ unique ability to shut down half the field while facing the opposition’s top target. His battles with elite receivers such as current Jet Brandon Marshall are etched in fans’ memories.
Unfortunately, Revis’ success brought off-the-field drama in the form of holdouts for more money. He was the master of renegotiating contracts in force. That the Jets are now voiding the last three seasons of this five-year deal proves Revis had a valid point all those years.
After Revis’ injury-shortened 2012 campaign, the Jets had enough of those annoyances. Revis was traded to Tampa Bay, where he signed the richest contract of any defensive back in NFL history. However, he was released after just one season. Revis hooked up with the despised Patriots in 2014 free agency and was an integral part of that Super Bowl-winning team.
But then Revis came back to New York and all was forgiven.
Until he wasn’t good any more. And in the cutthroat business of the NFL, what you’ve done lately on the field trumps all. In the Jets’ case, any reverence fans had for the Island where in Sundays past wide receivers has disappeared.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1