Jets coach Rex Ryan had had enough.
Over the next three days, Revis and the Jets finally reached an acceptable solution. Revis got a premium guarantee and New York got the premium player that truly gives it the best chance to win its first Super Bowl since the days of Joe Namath.
The four-year, $46 million deal Revis and the Jets agreed to on Sunday night (it was announced by Revis on his Twitter account just after midnight, as had been planned all along) includes $32 million fully guaranteed and to be paid out in deferred chunks. The total amount is well over $100 million less than the figure Revis reportedly wanted, and the guarantee is more than the Jets wanted to pay.
To put it another way, if Revis had played out his old deal and the Jets had franchised him in 2013 (based on current salaries of the top five cornerback contracts), he would have made $39 million with $20 million guaranteed. Under this deal, he gets $7 million more and $12 million more guaranteed.
Welcome to compromise.
What moved this deal more than anything was the common-sense approach of Ryan, an affable coach of the people who understands one basic premise: He needs Revis and, in the end, the money doesn’t matter if the team performs. That’s because Ryan knows better than anybody that all his wild, scary blitzes don’t look nearly so ominous without some truly great players running them. Those players can either be in the front (linemen and linebackers like had with the Baltimore Ravens) or in the back (like Revis in his breakout 2009 season).
Ryan also knows that his team isn’t going to win on the strength of offense. The Jets may be better than last year on that side of the ball, but quarterback Mark Sanchez(notes) has a long way to go and it’s obvious. If the Jets are going to win a Super Bowl, Sanchez will be playing a bit part this year.
That means that one way or another, you better have your best defensive players. For all four games of the preseason and all of training camp, Ryan didn’t have his best game changer, the one guy who alters the X’s and O’s more than anybody else. As the weeks wore on, you could sense the loss of confidence in Ryan’s voice as his team underperformed.
After the final preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, Ryan went back to his New Jersey home. Around 2 a.m., Ryan met with agent Neil Schwartz to go over the situation. In that meeting, Schwartz laid out the long-term vision Revis wanted if the Jets were really going to sign him to a 10-year contract, which is what the team had broached early in the offseason. Schwartz’s proposal was surprisingly light on guaranteed money, but it included a lot of cash in the first three years and protected Revis against the inevitable skyrocketing of contracts. Overall, it was worth close to $160 million.
“He was still going to have to earn his money,” Schwartz said.
By contrast, the Jets had been willing to guarantee money up front, as a team source indicated last week. But they wanted a discount in the process. As of Aug. 15, the Jets put out a 10-year, $122 million deal that included $40 million guaranteed. The guarantee was fine but Revis’ side knew that the total was going to become dated almost the minute he signed.
At that moment, Ryan realized that neither side was being unreasonable. Somewhere in all the mish-mosh of numbers and terms, there was a compromise to be found.
More importantly, it was time to get serious about football. The Jets had spent much of training camp throwing out the usual bluster about how they could win without Revis. They had Antonio Cromartie(notes). They had rookie Kyle Wilson(notes). They were six deep at cornerback with solid players.
Things didn’t always go smoothly for Ryan and the Jets this summer.
Yeah, right. Revis is a different cornerback. He’s not only athletic, he’s tough. Unlike Cromartie, an incredible athlete with no taste for the rough stuff of the game, Revis isn’t afraid to throw his body around. Revis can play zone and he can get up in a receiver’s face and duke it out. Pick your poison, he’s deadly.
Certainly far more than anybody else on the Jets defense, a unit that doesn’t include nearly the number of stars people think. From Bart Scott(notes) to Kris Jenkins(notes) to David Harris(notes), the Jets defense is a bunch of really good players, but not a lot who stir the drink.
This is not what Baltimore put together in 2000, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl behind one of the greatest defenses ever. Ryan was the defensive line coach and the Ravens featured Ray Lewis(notes), Sam Adams(notes), Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett, Mike McCrary, Peter Boulware and Chris McAlister(notes) all playing at their peak.
This is not the 1985 Bears unit that Ryan’s dad, Buddy, ran. That defense included Hall of Famers Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton, plus Richard Dent, Steve McMichael, Wilbur Marshall and Gary Fencik. By contrast, the Jets are much more a group whose sum is more than the value of the individual parts.
Except for Revis. He is truly special.
Last week, Revis’ uncle, Sean Gilbert, talked at length about all the things he could see coming from the Jets defense if they got his nephew signed.
“They could lead the league in sacks or interceptions, maybe both,” said Gilbert, who sat out the entire 1997 season in a contract dispute with the Washington Redskins.
Gilbert knows from what he speaks. As a former NFL defensive tackle, he understands the interplay of one talented guy playing next to another. He also understood the Jets’ position on the contract, but believed in the value of his nephew.
“Darrelle understands what he’s doing and what it means to him and the whole team,” Gilbert said. “He knows if he comes back, he better be ready.”
All that had to change was the “if” part in that statement. That’s where Ryan came in.