From the moment it was rumored that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were thinking that they'd rather trade or release cornerback Darrelle Revis than pay him $16 million for another season, and from the moment that the Denver Broncos signed former New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib to an enormous six-year, $57 million deal with $26 million guaranteed, the drumbeats around the NFL spoke to one seeming inevitability: Revis was heading to Foxboro to replace Talib and become the newest jewel in Bill Belichick's defense.
And on Wednesday night, inevitability became reality. As first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Patriots have agreed to terms with Revis on a one-year deal that will pay him $12 million. According to a source who spoke with the well-connected Schefter, Revis will still have to pass a physical and sign the contract, but these are formalities for the man who will continue to be the league's highest-paid cornerback.
Revis, selected in the first round of the 2007 draft by the New York Jets out of Pitt, established himself as the league's best cover corner fairly quickly. But after he was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL in October 2012, he ran afoul of new Jets general manager John Idzik, and the team seemed to wonder if Revis would be worth the trouble as he continued to question the Jets' commitment to him regarding a long-term deal. He had signed a four-year, $46 million deal in 2010, but as the 2013 preseason rolled along, it was clear that player and team would not be able to come together on a long-term solution.
Thus, the Jets traded Revis to Tampa Bay on April 21, 2013. He was signed to a six year, $96 million deal that was actually a series of one-year deals with $13 million in base salaries and $3 million per year in bonuses. Revis played fairly well in his year with the Bucs after a few initial growing pains. He had to adjust to defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's zone concepts as opposed to the aggressive press and trail concepts he played so frequently with the Jets.
He finished the 2013 season with two interceptions and 43 solo tackles in 16 games, but the advanced stats weren't quite as kind -- Revis allowed four touchdowns to those two picks, according to Pro Football Focus, and let opposing quarterbacks post an 81.4 rating when targeting him. In total, he gave up 34 receptions for 400 yards on 63 targets in 556 coverage snaps.
And as Tampa Bay's regime changed from head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik to head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, it became clear that another team had decided Revis wasn't worth his contract.
Licht had floated Revis to the rest of the league as a possible trade chip, perhaps hoping to get the first-round pick the Bucs had given up to get him, or something close to that. But as it was common knowledge that Tampa Bay was going to unload the veteran before a $1.5 million roster bonus became due, any possible trade partners decided to wait.
And that's when Belichick and the Patriots swooped in.
The need for New England was clear. Talib played very well for the Patriots in 2013, and his departure left a giant hole in the Patriots' pass defense, and Revis' talents clearly fit New England's defensive concepts. One interesting aspect of the new deal, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post, is that Revis' camp reached out to the Jets to see if there might be any interest in bringing Revis back. This lined up in a way with what Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News wrote Wednesday -- that there had been communication between the two sides. The Jets were in need of cornerback help after releasing Antonio Cromartie, so the idea made sense.
So, it's a return to the AFC East for Darrelle Revis -- but not with the team any Jets fan would want. Grade: B. There's no question the Pats needed to replace Talib with a cornerback who could shut down the NFL's best receivers. And in the abstract, Revis still shows that ability when coaches scheme for him correctly. He's not the transcendent talent he once was -- at least, he wasn't in Tampa Bay -- but it's also entirely possible that he'll do what so many other veterans do -- thrive in New England as they would not elsewhere. It's an expensive rental for the Pats, but a necessary one.