The New York Jets-Darrelle Revis “They love me; they love me not” saga has taken yet another sour twist this week. Any romance -- any spark at all -- that was left in this relationship may be forever spoiled now.
The Jets plan to enforce language in the star cornerback's contract that requires him to participate in the team’s voluntary workouts on April 15 to collect bonus money, according to Rich Cimini at ESPN.
This was more than merely salt in the wound. This was a petty move by Jets management; one that could have been tactfully (and classily) avoided. It shows the deterioration of one of the rockiest of player-team relationships in recent NFL history. This is a team putting its foot down for the sake of putting its foot down. In my eyes, it’s short-sighted.
Revis is currently rehabbing his surgically repaired knee in Arizona, patiently waiting for the trade winds to pass. But a month has passed since Revis was first linked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in numerous trade reports. It’s been six weeks since he was the leading buzz generator at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis back in February.
For all the New York Daily News back pages and Twitter mania surrounding him, Revis remains a Jet. Still. The Buccaneers haven’t given up the farm as some expected. No “NFC West team” (as was originally indicated in numerous reports) has offered multiple first-round picks. The line of suitors isn’t exactly forming around the block. Do teams want Revis? Sure. Given he has a full recovery from his injury, he’s arguably the top cornerback in all of football. Do they want to mortgage their futures, knowing the corner the Jets have backed themselves into, to get him? Apparently not.
A $3 million bonus is nothing to scoff at, obviously. The Jets shouldn’t just give that to a player out of good faith, especially after they’ve already granted Revis $1 million for a previous roster bonus he met earlier this offseason. But if the Jets do, indeed, plan on trading Revis prior to the NFL Draft — which I think they ultimately still will — why even bring him into the building? What kind of message is that? If it’s a matter of 6-8 workouts, why even cross that road?
There’s uncomfortable and then there’s awkward.
Uncomfortable might be Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert openly stating that he wants to “stay away” from the team’s facilities until he has to be there, as he said last week, three weeks removed from having the franchise tag placed on him. Awkward is having Revis, a respected, well-liked team leader and a perennial All-Pro, being forced to show up for OTAs despite his current uncertainty with the team.
Want to start fresh in 2013? Want to point to all the changes on the coaching staff, on the roster, and in the front office and say, “It’s a new regime, let’s start anew?” Well, forcing your best player — a holdover from the circus year that was 2012 — to show his face at the team’s first official events of the new season, knowing he likely won’t be there come training camp, might not be the best way to go about things.
Oddly enough, though, neither the Jets nor Revis really hold the proverbial hammer, here. The Jets have little leverage with the 31 other teams at this point. Revis is an unrestricted free agent next year and it’s unlikely they’ll be bringing him back for the money he’ll demand. Due to the language in his contract, he can’t be given the franchise tag, either. So, if the Jets want anything in exchange for Darrelle Revis, now is the time to trade him. Time is of the essence. If this drags out until training camp, it’ll be another Jets media circus nightmare. It’ll make Tim Tebow’s secret Wildcat package sessions look like PBS. Additionally, teams will be set with their rosters and their payrolls. It's got to be now. Otherwise, it's a mess.
Revis, however, wants his bonus money. He’s not going to turn down $3 million out of pride. He’ll show up if that’s what’s at stake. He may be confused, mad, and disappointed — a great combination to kick the year off with — but he’ll be there. Furthermore, Revis and his agents aren’t dumb. Coming off major knee surgery, it wouldn’t be wise to hold out. Teams need to see him. They’re all prospective suitors at this point. Come August, he's not going to want to sit out any longer than he has to. Could he really put on a Jets jersey again? And be a good soldier, despite months of public trading block discussion? It's difficult to see it happening.
Regardless of how this all turns out, it’s a no-win for both sides. The team and the player have been dancing for years, but the music appears to be coming to an end. Multiple off-seasons of public spats, NFL Films-produced trips to the Roscoe Diner and games of “contract chicken” may culminate with an awkward dead-end in the middle of April. This is more than a matter of a few off-season workouts and $3 million.