- Ian O'Connor, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A guess that the New York Jets wanted no part of the drama surrounding a return of Darrelle Revis would be an educated one. The Jets did not want to give Revis the $12 million New England gave him because they did not want to play another round of Moneyball with his agents next winter, and because Jets owner Woody Johnson would rather watch the Giants win five more rings than concede he needed one of the best players in franchise history after all.
The Jets instead decided to spend less on the lesser likes of Dimitri Patterson, an undrafted player with a history of injuries and pink slips. If it seems Patterson already had been hired and fired by half the league, hey, at least he wouldn't cause the kind of trouble Revis caused when it came time to getting paid.
So yeah, you already know how this story goes. Just another face in the NFL crowd, a mediocrity signed for $3 million, Patterson flipped the franchise upside down by disappearing into the night, skipping the preseason game with the Giants, and compelling his bosses to suspend him indefinitely and to throw floodlights on the fact that his position, cornerback, might be weak enough to prevent the Jets from landing the playoff berth that would save Rex Ryan's job.
The same position manned by Revis, who was dying to return to the Jets in March and sure let them know it.
As soon as Tampa Bay decided to bail on the cornerback only one year into his nonguaranteed six-year, $96 million deal, at least two senior Jets officials were directly notified by Revis and his reps, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, that they preferred a Jets sequel over other enticing options. Maybe that stated preference never made it to Woody Johnson's desk; maybe it did. Either way, Revis' wish list read like this:
1) The Jets 2) The Patriots 3) The Giants 4) The Broncos
By showing no interest in making a deal, the Jets didn't merely miss a golden opportunity to play the Bucs for fools. They also hand-delivered Revis to New England, of all places, home of the team favored to win its 12th AFC East title in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
The Jets haven't won that division since Herm Edwards went 9-7 in 2002.
Of course, Rex Ryan wanted Revis back to help him change all that. In fact, even after the cornerback tore up his knee early in the 2012 season, Ryan had no interest in trading him to Tampa Bay. So this is one triple bogey that doesn't belong on the coach's scorecard.
This one goes to Johnson, the owner whose Wilpon-esque payroll is about $21 million under the salary cap, and to John Idzik, the GM who is left with some corners who would struggle to start in the SEC.
How smart would the Jets look now had they elevated above their hurt feelings and matched or slightly exceeded New England's offer? The Bucs had already given the Jets a first-round pick (Sheldon Richardson, only the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year) and a fourth-rounder (Jalen Saunders), and better yet, they rehabbed Revis' knee on their time and dime and sent him into free agency ready to return to something approximating his otherworldly form.
Revis behind Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson and the rest? Still in the heart of his prime at 29, Revis would've turned a very good defense into a great defense, and he would've taken so much pressure off the corner on the other side, Dee Milliner, who was overmatched for most of his first season. More than anything, Revis could've given the Jets an outside shot at upsetting the Patriots in the AFC East.
Now Brady is busy comparing his new teammate to the best defensive players he's ever faced, as in Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. In his weekly interview earlier this month on Boston's WEEI, Brady raved about Revis' intelligence and desire to challenge every pass thrown his way in practice.
"You don't know what he sees, or what he knows," Brady said, "but he always is in the right place and has incredible instincts for a corner when sometimes he runs the routes [before] the receivers. He has great intuition and he obviously sees everything on the field. He sees the quarterback, he sees the split of the receiver, he sees the eyes of the receiver, he sees the technique of the receiver coming off the line of scrimmage ... He just sees everything and he makes great breaks on the ball."
Nah, the Jets don't need a guy like that in their secondary.
"He was so good for them," Brady added.
Revis wanted badly to be so good for them again. The 16 games with Tampa Bay amounted to a struggle, the result of a star athlete coming to terms with a surgically repaired knee. But Revis reported to the Patriots in great shape, and the early preseason returns suggest he won't make Belichick regret the $12 million investment.
The Jets? They've got the defense up front, a promising young quarterback in Geno Smith, a capable backup (finally) in Michael Vick, and some interesting new playmakers on offense. But after refusing to bring back Revis, after failing to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (or Antonio Cromartie, for that matter), injuries and an unexcused absence have saddled the Jets with a cornerback crisis that threatens to bring them down.
They are scheduled to see Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Brady -- in that order -- after opening against Oakland. "I believe that we'll be just fine," Ryan said Monday about his corners.
He's paid to say that and, in the end, at least he wanted to sign Revis. Idzik? He preferred to go with the Dimitri Pattersons of the world, the kind of guys who keep you around 7-9 or 8-8 ... when they decide to show up, that is.
The Jets might yet release Patterson before they play a regular-season game. Up north, a safe bet says Belichick and Brady will vote to keep Darrelle Revis around for the entire season.
Caught in a CB crisis, the Jets should kick themselves for passing on Revis.