Did the Jets Overpay Darrelle Revis?

Darrelle Revis AP

On Tuesday night, the New York Jets agreed to a deal with free agent Darrelle Revis that will pay the Pro Bowl corner $70 million over five years, with $39 million guaranteed.

The move comes as the latest part of the ongoing offseason makeover that has witnessed the Jets hiring a new coach and GM, releasing receiver Percy Harvin, and adding big target Brandon Marshall through a trade.

This is Revis’s second stint with the Jets. They picked him in the first round of the 2007 draft, but in 2013 traded him to Tampa Bay due to a contract dispute. In exchange for Revis, the Buccaneers sent the Jets their first-round pick in 2013, and a fourth-rounder in 2014.

Revis signed a six-year contract for $96 million with Tampa Bay. He played there one season. A new regime took charge in Tampa Bay in 2014, regarded it as bad business to pay a cornerback that kind of money, and released him shortly thereafter. Revis made $16 million in his one season with the Bucs, and clearly had little impact on the team’s won-loss record. They finished 4-12.

Here is the problem with paying cornerbacks big money. They can be taken out of the game. Teams can just throw to the other parts of the field—play keep-away from the elite corner. Top-shelf corners can become like the Maytag repairman—very lonely. Just throw at the second corner, the nickel back, linebackers covering tight ends, running backs, and so forth.

Also, Revis turns 30 before this season. Cornerback plays as a position where speed and quickness are essential. You can start losing that due to the wear-and-tear of this exceedingly violent sport. Revis has played eight seasons in the NFL.

Signing 30-year-old corners to big money deals can be risky business. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year deal for $60 million, including $25 million guaranteed. The Eagles released him after two seasons. The Eagles compiled a 12-20 over his time there.

The bottom line is the NFL remains a quarterback-driven league. If you don’t have one, signing big-money players at other positions can be like putting lipstick on a pig. The teams with the elite quarterbacks constantly contend. The teams with pedestrian signal-callers usually tread water.

Right now, the Jets quarterback position is problematic. Geno Smith, a turnover machine his first two years in the league, currently sits atop the depth chart. The Jets will probably add a journeyman quarterback to compete with him, perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick, once the Houston Texans release him, which is expected to happen shortly. Perhaps they pick Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with the sixth pick in the draft. But he’s a major project, coming out of a college offensive system that doesn’t translate to the NFL game. He’s going to need time to develop.

Yes Revis won a Super Bowl last season as a member of the New England Patriots. No question he had a solid season and contributed to the Patriots winning their fourth championship. However, the biggest reason, by far, for New England’s championship last season, and prior, is #12, the guy under center, a guy named Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Yes, Revis can help the Jets. But until they find a franchise quarterback, his impact on their won-loss record, is likely minimal.