Buccaneers release Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis after one year

Darrelle Revis had a Pro Bowl season for the Buccaneers in his lone season with Tampa Bay, but it wasn't enough to justify the large cap hit the team would face by keeping him.

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TAMPA, Fla. — Darrelle Revis’ presence in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform, from the start, was a high-priced gamble. Since its beginning, this partnership was the result of coincidence — the New York Jets eager to cast him away and the Bucs enthused to welcome him to repair a broken secondary with no other serious contender for his services.

There was a flaw in this design, of course — $16 million mistake that stands as one of the Bucs’ worst trades ever now that it can be judged. The divorce came Wednesday afternoon, a predictable conclusion after weeks of rumors when the Bucs cut him to clear $16 million in cap room for their breathless spending spree.

The move brings a logical end to Revis’ short stint with Tampa Bay. He was signed as the assumed "final piece" by the former Greg Schiano/Mark Dominik regime to be a contender in the NFC South, a difference-maker for what they thought would be a ready-now threat against division stalwarts Atlanta and New Orleans.

But it’s no shock Revis’ $13 million in base salary, plus $3 million in roster and workout bonuses, proved too much for new coach Lovie Smith and new general manager Jason Licht to stomach with a massive overhaul of a 4-12 team underway.

This is a financial choice, and it’s one of necessity.

"We saw these four guys here,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said, referencing new signees defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers. "We saw the transaction of adding a quarterback. Like I said, we’re not done yet. We wouldn’t be able to do that if there were certain transactions that happened. We have all the respect in the world for Darrelle. He’s a very good player. We wish him the best. He’s going to continue to be a great player.”

Reports indicate that the Bucs tried to keep Revis through a restructured deal. Then there was the rumored trade interest from the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and elsewhere.

Understandably, the three-time All-Pro was unwilling to reshape his contract, one that paid him nearly $6 million more than the next-highest earner at his position.

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This situation was about money, yes, but also pride. Revis has plenty of both. He was never going to blink.

Look to the beginning, back to last April, for why this scenario unraveled so quickly. Then Revis agreed to a team-friendly six-year, $96 million deal that included no guaranteed money, made in part because of concerns about his recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee that required surgery.

There was little hesitation about the contract in its first days, Revis’ addition a reason to celebrate for a franchise eager to make buzz-worthy national headlines. But the knee bothered Revis early last fall, enough so that the Bucs used more zone coverage than expected because he was unable to find the burst he had enjoyed as a younger man. Clearly, something was wrong.

Still, Revis did fair jobs against elite wide receivers such as Steve Smith and Larry Fitzgerald. He wasn’t the rock-steady "Revis Island" of old. But he was a deterrent, and at times, he admitted boredom because of how offenses avoided him.

After it all, was the return on Revis worth it? No.

The Bucs surrendered their 13th overall pick last year, which the Jets used to select defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the eventual NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. With Revis off the Bucs’ roster, they save a $1.5 million roster bonus he would have been due after 4 p.m. Wednesday, and a third-round pick the Jets would have received becomes a fourth-round selection.

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Sure, Revis gave the Bucs production, but his stay wasn’t long enough to call this anything other than a blunder. He earned 50 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He appeared to gain more comfort in his healing knee late in the season, and his play was good enough to allow him to earn his fifth Pro Bowl appearance.

But mostly, the Revis deal will go down as one of the most disappointing in Bucs history.

In retrospect, it was a desperation move by Schiano and Dominik for a pair that overestimated their roster’s potential, which is part of the reason why both men are no longer employed at One Buc Place. Their miscalculation of the greater depth present in their locker room was their downfall.

With Revis gone, the Bucs will never receive the first-round pick they lost. With Revis gone, they overpaid for someone who only gave them a single season. With Revis gone, they never did see him at his full potential, which is part of the reason why the Glazers were upset that they never received appropriate return on their high-dollar free-agent investments of recent years.

How fast things change.

Last spring, Revis’ signing was a symbol of optimism. The so-called "No Fly Zone" secondary was a reason to believe in the Bucs’ potential, with Revis standing as the remade group’s crown jewel.

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Now those days are long gone, change is everywhere in Tampa, and only questions remain: Why did the Revis deal come to this? Why did the marriage end so soon? Why was it made at all?

Someday, but not soon, the answers will make sense. That’s NFL life for most: It’s a turnstile of locker rooms, relationships and experiences crisscrossing the country. Stability is elusive. Free agency is an annual reminder of how fast the landscape moves.

Now, only part of Revis’ departure is logical. He came as a signal of momentum and playoff dreams, however distant those appear. His presence, shortly after that initial flight from New Jersey to Florida, was a 5-foot-11, 198-pound package of promise.

He leaves as a reminder of how low things became.

Someday, but not soon, the sting from an ill-fated gamble will be gone.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.