It's the most prominent reunion in this free-agency cycle, and it could signal an entirely new era in defensive greatness for the New York Jets. The Jets have signed Darrelle Revis to a multi-year deal, and will have him back in the fold. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, it's a five-year, $70 million deal with $39 million fully guaranteed and $48 million in the first three years.
The Jets drafted Revis in 2007, and had him through '12, and they watched him develop into the best cornerback in the game, before he was alienated by former general manager John Idzik and cast away to the Buccaneers for a season. Revis then signed a two-year deal with a second-year option with the Patriots before the 2014 season, won a Super Bowl ring in his one season with Bill Belichick, and became a free agent on Tuesday when the Pats officially declined his $20 million second-year option.
Several teams were in the mix for Revis's services, and it's understandable why. Revis will turn 30 in July and though he's not quite at the same level he was in his historically great 2009 season, or the span from '09 through '11, when he set the standard for man-on-man coverage, he was still pretty special with the Patriots last year. He kept best enemy targets on lockdown for the most part in a defense that was a perfect fit for him. In the 2014 regular season, per Pro Football Focus' metrics, Revis allowed 41 catches on 79 targets for 557 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 72.2 opponent passer rating, good for ninth in the league. He did that while most often covering the best receiver on the opposing team, shifting from side to side as necessary. In the postseason, he was very rarely thrown to -- just six targets and three catches for 25 yards and an interception, though two of those catches were for touchdowns, including one in New England's Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle.
Now, with new head coach Todd Bowles, a former NFL defensive back and defensive coordinator, Revis stands to benefit in an entirely new regime. Bowles and new Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan also signed former Browns cornerback Buster Skrine to a four-year, $25 million deal with $13 million guaranteed. It was clear that the key priority for the Jets was to improve a secondary that was a real problem in 2014, and they've done that with authority.
Maccagnan said they'd do as much during his podium session at the scouting combing in late February -- though he couldn't talk about specific players because the new league year wasn't open yet, he certainly recognized his team's primary need.
"It’s literally every position we’re trying to make more competitive. I’d say there are certain positions, if you look at our roster, based on injuries last year … CB would be a position we’d probably address, whether it’s the draft or pro free agency. But, overall, we’re going to try to address the talent and make the team as competitive as we can be."
Making the Jets competitive wasn't going to happen with Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams, Antonio Allen, Kyle Williams and Phillip Adams, the group of cornerbacks the Jets trotted out in the 2014 season after Idzik ran Revis off and refused to spend real money on legitimate replacements. That fivesome allowed a total of 13 touchdowns on direct targets, amassing four interceptions and allowing opposing quarterbacks to look far more efficient than they should. Only Williams allowed a passer rating lower then 106.0. Adding Revis and Skrine (or players with their comparative talent) was a necessity. The Jets are also in heavy negotiations with Antonio Cromartie, who played for that franchise from 2010 through 2013 and had a very good year under Bowles in Arizona in 2014.
Revis is still a great player, and he will be for a while yet, but that level of guaranteed money for a cornerback who's going to be fighting age sooner than later is the walking definition of overpaying. It works in the short term because the Jets had scads of cap room, but that much money in the first three years could come back to bite the franchise. Still, the Jets have fallen on hard times recently, and such teams must often overspend to prove that they're interested in winning above all else. The Jets have certainly proven that here.