It's a scary thought for the Jets and their fan base, but Sunday's season-ending knee injury has clouded the future of the best cornerback on the planet. The confluence of several factors -- injury, contract and pride -- could force player and team to confront the sobering possibility of parting ways.
Ever since they renegotiated his contract in 2010 -- the so-called "Band-Aid" deal -- the Jets have been pointing to 2013 (before the season) as the time to return to the bargaining table to hammer out a long-term extension that would enable Revis to "retire" a Jet.
They have to do it before Revis plays out his contact because there's a clause in his current deal that prohibits the Jets from using the franchise tag when he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season. If they let him hit the free-agent market, he's as good as gone.
Now here's the tricky part: Can the Jets pay fair-market value for a player coming off major surgery? Will Revis and his hard-line agents accept anything less? They're not the type that will give injury discounts, and this is a player looking for north of $16 million per year, conservatively -- the number that was whispered last offseason, when Revis was mulling a holdout. Right now, he's averaging $11.5 million annually.
"It's a real problem," a longtime general manager said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "You could say all bets are off. Until you see it -- until you see him at 100 percent -- do you want to make that kind of investment? I don't know many teams that would."
Clearly, the injury hurts Revis more than the Jets. With another Revis-type season in 2012, he would've had all the leverage next spring and summer during negotiations, using his impending free agency in 2014 as the hammer.
It all changed Sunday in Miami, where he blew out his knee in a freakish, non-contact injury. But know this: Revis' agents are pit bulls, with a long history of acrimony involving the Jets, and some in the industry believe they won't lower their demands.
"I don't see Revis saying, 'I'm going to settle,'" one prominent agent said. "He'll rehab until he's 100 percent and demand the world. It could be an ugly situation."
Timing will be everything.
Revis faces a six- to nine-month rehab, according to Marc Rubman, an orthopedic surgeon and sports-medicine specialist at Atlantic Sports Health in Morristown, N.J. Barring complications, Revis should be ready for training camp next July, he said.
Rubman said there's every reason to believe Revis, still only 27, will return to his old self. But there's no guarantee: "These guys, at this level, you worry if they lose one-tenth of a step."
The Jets can evaluate Revis next preseason, but can they formulate a strong opinion based on that? We're not talking about a three-year, $10 million contract here; this probably will be the biggest deal in team history, one that could blow up their salary cap if it backfires. This figured to be a tough negotiation before the injury. Now it could be a massive headache.
The longtime GM said he'd wait until a few games into the regular season before determining how much he'd be willing to pay on a long-term deal. A lot of athletes don't like negotiating during the season. In Revis' case, he could decide to play out the season and try free agency. That would be risky, of course.
"When he looks at that money, he's not going to say no," the GM said. "The only way he says no is if they treat him poorly and he says, 'I'll never play for the Jets again.'"
The agent said he could envision a scenario in which the Jets, unwilling to meet Revis' demands, try to deal him before the 2013 trading deadline. Of course, they'd have to find a team willing to compensate the Jets and accept the risk-reward of a mega-contract.
Revis' season is over. The drama isn't.