- Ian O'Connor, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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So it turns out the New York Jets are capable of butt fumbles in April, too. They are capable of taking one of their two greatest players ever, a talent right there with Joe Namath, and running him out of town before he made it to his 28th birthday.
Darrelle Revis wanted badly to be a Jet for life. He was planning on buying a place in Manhattan, on spending the rest of his career as a citizen of the city, on being in the secondary when the Jets reached the Super Bowl for the first time since man landed on the moon.
Now man might land on Mars before the Jets return to the big game. They traded Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two picks -- including one first-rounder (No. 13 overall) in this week's draft -- a deal that doesn't look any better than the clip of Mark Sanchez running facemask-first into Brandon Moore's rump on Thanksgiving night.
If that play was at least good for a laugh, there's nothing remotely funny about this. Revis scored $96 million from the Bucs over six years, but not a penny of it is guaranteed. Woody Johnson could've had virtually the same deal and cut his man as soon as it was warranted without owing him anything. In other words, it's the kind of deal the Yankees wish they had with Alex Rodriguez.
New Yorkers should react to the Revis move the way they reacted to the sight of Sanchez inside Madison Square Garden on Saturday, when the quarterback was all but thrown out of the building.
With Revis due to hit free agency next winter, the Jets didn't seriously negotiate with Revis and his agents. According to an NFL source, those agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, floated the same kind of non-guaranteed deal over the last two seasons, and Johnson and his football guy, former GM Mike Tannenbaum, refused to meet with them.
Would the Jets have been forced to guarantee the second season in the contract Revis ultimately signed with Tampa? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever Woody and Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum's replacement, John Idzik, were selling on a conference call with reporters Sunday night about wanting to keep Revis, it wasn't worth buying.
Woody never wanted to pay Revis, and Idzik took the hit for him. Instead of working hard to arrive at the most cap-friendly contract possible, Jets officials poured their time and energy into negotiations with Tampa Bay while Revis' value was compromised. They looked to move Revis when his knee injury surely scared off a few suitors who would've competed with the Bucs, increased the Jets' leverage, and left Idzik with a package more acceptable than the one he got.
Idzik was a Tampa Bay executive when the Bucs acquired Keyshawn Johnson in 2000 for two first-round picks (Nos. 13 and 27), not one, and gave the wide receiver $56 million. On the Jets' side of the table this time, Idzik should've known better. He should've known that Revis is a better football player than Johnson ever was and that the Jets should be acquiring more here than a first-rounder this year and essentially a third-rounder next, even off the Revis surgery.
But Idzik and his boss, Woody Johnson, didn't help their own cause by making it clear -- from Idzik's first day on the job -- that they were open to shipping Revis to the highest bidder, a stance that left them with one serious bidder, Tampa Bay. The Jets should've played hard to get. They should've publicly declared their love for Revis and the notion of him as a one-uniform lifer, if only to encourage more teams to put aside the surgery and the contract demands and focus on the cornerback's game-changing skill.
Better yet, the Jets should've tried to sign Revis, a player on the front nine of his prime. For those who believe it's good business for a rebuilding team to move its best player for draft picks, remember this:
The Jets drafted Vernon Gholston in the first round and Vlad Ducasse in the second. If they have the same kind of luck with Tampa's picks, they're still going to be hearing about it long after Revis is retired.
Sure, sometimes even the Jets find a positive difference-maker in the draft. But even if they do land a winner at No. 13 on Thursday night, what are the odds that the kid will ever be as good as Darrelle Revis?
About as long as the odds of Rex Ryan coaching this team for another five seasons.
Tannenbaum made his share of draft-day mistakes, but Revis sure wasn't one of them. Idzik traded him anyway, and this first big move doesn't exactly match up with the Dallas Cowboys' dealing of Herschel Walker to Minnesota.
If Idzik wanted to play for the future and save some money in the secondary, he should've moved Antonio Cromartie, whose value was up coming off a big season. Revis is a much better cornerback and locker room presence than Cromartie, whom Ryan was in favor of trading, according to a league source who said the coach had tired of Cro's high-maintenance act.
But as they tear down the team Ryan helped Tannenbaum assemble, Idzik and Johnson no longer care about the preferences of a coach who would've signed Revis to a 10-year deal if he could have, no matter what Ryan was saying Sunday night. That's why Rex should've been fired with Tannenbaum. The Jets are sticking Ryan with a 5-11 team, a sendoff certain to make it that much more difficult for him to get another job.
Keeping Rex made as much sense as not keeping Revis, who signed a four-year, $46 million deal in the summer of 2010 that the corner thought was meant to be torn up after Year 2, and his employer thought was meant to be torn up after Year 3. When Revis signed that deal and ended his holdout, Tannenbaum made the following Woody-approved statement:
"This is an intermediate step 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."
Now Revis could go to the Hall of Fame as a Buc, and no, it didn't have to be that way. They gave the money to the wrong Jets, Sanchez and Santonio Holmes among them, and so Woody Johnson never considered paying the right Jet in the same market where even the Wilpons paid David Wright, and where George Steinbrenner's son is all-in on Robinson Cano.
Idzik covered for Woody and ended up talking about a "substantial difference" between Revis' idea of fair value and theirs. What a shame. Six years ago, Tannenbaum's Jets made a trade with Carolina to move up 11 spots from No. 25 in the first round, and Revis became an all-time steal with the 14th overall pick.
Revis grew up in Aliquippa, Pa., only a dozen or so miles away from Namath's hometown of Beaver Falls. The cornerback wanted to remain a Jet for as long as the quarterback did.
Now, it's not going to happen. Revis is getting his money in Tampa, and season-ticket holders are getting the shaft in New York.
The Jets didn't have to trade Darrelle Revis, but they did. And it wasn't pretty.