- Ian O'Connor, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Mike Tannenbaum once made a trade with the Carolina Panthers that changed the New York Jets in ways a trade for Jeff Otah never could. In 2007, Tannenbaum sent Carolina some draft picks to move up in the first round and take a cornerback as tough as the western Pennsylvania mill town that delivered him.
Darrelle Revis of Aliquippa became the greatest Jet since Joe Namath of Beaver Falls, and when it's over Revis might go down as the greatest Jet of all. Tannenbaum should be proud of that. He should be proud he made the smartest New York, New York draft choice -- at least on the more violent side of the ball -- since George Young went for Lawrence Taylor in 1981.
Only the Jets have had the funniest way of showing their appreciation for Revis, who is expected to report to the team's summer base in Cortland, N.Y., on Thursday as a less-than-happy camper. The cornerback wants a new contract, and once again his employer doesn't want to give him one.
It's an old movie, yet this time around it won't be quite as painful to watch. If Revis held out again, the Jets would've hit him with more financial penalties than the Knicks supposedly would've absorbed for keeping Jeremy Lin. Or close enough.
So Revis is scheduled to show up with Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez and perform in the latest edition of Rex Ryan's no-ring circus. But that doesn't mean the Jets win the game. If they don't pay Revis the money he deserves now, look out, they might lose him to free agency after the 2013 season.
The two most successful franchises in the market took care of their superstar players in their prime, the Yankees with Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million) and the Giants with Eli Manning (six years, $97.5 million). Revis is the Jets' Jeter and Manning. He carries himself the same dignified way on and off the field, except when it comes to his contract.
Revis is forced to fight to the death for his rightful wage like other young superstars are not.
Show him the money, Woody Johnson. Do the deal now, Mike Tannenbaum. At 27, Revis' value will only increase with his appetite to rebuff the Jets at the negotiating table this time next year, peddle his services to the highest bidders following 2013 and, perhaps, abandon the only team he wants to play for.
This much is certain: Revis isn't giving the Jets any hometown discount next summer, when Johnson and Tannenbaum agree to redo the 2010 contract (four years, $46 million) the cornerback and his agents believe the Jets pledged to redo this summer, right now, before Revis plays for a $7.5 million wage that is miles south of his market value.
The Jets believe they made no such promise and can cite the fact Revis earned $25 million last year, big bonus included, as proof the player should get by on $7.5 million before being spared the indignity of earning a lousy $6 million next year. The Jets can also point out that many big-time NFL stars play out their contracts, and that they didn't have to wipe out the first three years of the cornerback's rookie deal, one he'd clearly performed.
Revis? His camp doesn't look at the $25 million in 2011 as much as it looks at the combined $32.5 million in 2010 and '11, a $16 million-plus average that sounds fair for the best defensive player in the sport.
It's a he-said, he-said standoff on what both sides agree was a Band-Aid agreement to end Revis' 35-day holdout and give HBO's "Hard Knocks" the final-round knockout punch it craved. The Jets want to talk next year, and Revis wants to talk now, and you'd think a football owner out of the Johnson & Johnson empire would know how to fix, you know, a Band-Aid.
But the Jets haven't met with Revis' reps, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, and have no plans to meet with Revis' reps. Most football people believe the highest-paid corner should earn more than the highest-paid receiver, and the Detroit Lions just signed Calvin Johnson for eight seasons and $132 million, including $60 million guaranteed and an average wage of more than $17 million in the first three years.
So if Revis plays this season under his current contract, he'll be underpaid by a good $10 million. This for a cornerback Ryan said will go down with Deion Sanders and Willie Brown as the best of all time.
"This is an intermediate step," Tannenbaum had said of the 2010 deal with Revis, "to what we hope will be an entire career of Darrelle as a Jet, for him to retire as a Jet and for him to hopefully go to the Hall of Fame as a Jet."
An intermediate step to what was supposed to be a long-term contract.
Revis loves New York and understands the legacy benefits of spending an entire career in one uniform. But he also understands that the NFL is the ultimate blood sport, and that the lack of fully guaranteed contracts encourages management to fire injured and declining players without losing a wink of sleep.
Revis still remembers the way his friend, Leon Washington, was cut loose by the Jets. "Look at the Leon situation," he told ESPNNewYork.com in 2010. "They were working on his contract, and he broke his leg and missed the season, and now he has no stability, no comfort zone, no anything."
More than their peers in baseball and basketball, football players have to get their money when they can. Revis has no choice but to strike as quickly as possible, especially after the Jets told him way back when they saw him as their Jeter.
"And the thing I'm so frustrated by," Revis said in the 2010 interview, "is they sit here and tell me this to my face. But then they don't want to value me or honor me for that."
Two years later, Revis has to report to camp because of the money he'd lose if he didn't. He has to report to camp because he knows another holdout could leave him as the scapegoat for a potential 7-9 season, as the face of a franchise that will play the blame game if everything collapses around Sanchez and Tebow and Santonio Holmes.
Everyone in green is on notice this season, Ryan and Tannenbaum included, and so the Jets need stability like never before. They shouldn't alienate their best player, a player they can't slap a franchise tag on, and push him two steps closer to free agency by forcing him to work at less than half his market value.
No, this isn't the time to put Revis on any island.
Ian O'Connor is the author of "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter". Sunday Morning With Ian O'Connor is heard Sundays, 9-11 a.m., on ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Darrelle Revis' $7.5 million wage is miles south of his market value.