Commentary

Bucs should't be married to Revis

Shutdown corner not worth $16M to Tampa Bay, but he might be to certain teams

Originally Published: February 27, 2014
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

It is no slight to Darrelle Revis. He is a tremendous player. He remains one of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League, standing only in the shadow of the dynamic Richard Sherman.

Last season, coming off reconstructive knee surgery and a shortened preseason, Revis played in 16 games, made 50 tackles, intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and proved that, at 28 years old, he still is a shutdown corner to be feared. Revis Island still exists.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be smart to listen if an offer for Revis comes their way, and Revis would be smart to help facilitate a move.

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDarrelle Revis certainly has value in any defense, but is he worth $16 million in a Tampa 2 scheme that isn't predicated on having a shutdown corner?

New Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith didn't choose Revis. New general manager Jason Licht didn't trade the 13th pick in last year's draft to the New York Jets to acquire Revis. That trade and the subsequent bloated contract the Buccaneers gave Revis were decisions made in concert by former coach Greg Schiano and former general manager Mark Dominik.

Smith and Licht inherited Revis and his $16 million salary for 2014, a whopping $6 million more than any other cornerback in the league will make this season.

Smith and Licht also inherited a roster that needs to be upgraded on both sides of the ball. The Bucs need help on the offensive line. They need a pass-rusher or two who can come off the edge and pressure the quarterback. They need more speed on both sides of the ball.

They don't need a cornerback to count $16 million against the cap. The Bucs could spend that money acquiring three, maybe four players who better fit into Smith's defensive system.

I know what Smith and Licht have said. There is a place in Smith's Tampa 2 defense, which is predicated on zone schemes that put more value on the middle of the defense, for Revis. They have plans to utilize Revis' ability to take away half of the field. They value his ability as a shutdown corner capable of corralling each opponent's best wide receiver.

Smith and Licht, who are both intelligent and respected football men, have been adamant since coming to the Bucs that Revis is going to be a productive member of the team in 2014, and that's great. But if Tampa Bay isn't going to tailor its defense to suit Revis' unique skills, why bother keeping - and paying - him?

We should know the truth about their plans soon enough.

If they are going to cut ties with Revis, the Bucs have incentive to do so quickly. Revis signed a six-year deal last year, but in reality it is a series of one-year, $16 million contracts, meaning there would be no cap hit should the Bucs trade or even release him. If Revis is on Tampa Bay's roster on March 14, the third day of the new league year, the Bucs will owe Revis a $1.5 million bonus.

They would be hard pressed to eat that bonus and trade Revis after that.

Plus, if Revis is on the roster on the third day of the new league year, the Bucs must give the Jets a third-round pick in this May's draft as part of the deal that brought him to Tampa Bay. If he's not on the roster, the Jets get the Bucs' fourth-round pick.

For a team with so many needs and only five picks in this year's draft, the difference between a third- and a fourth-round selection is significant given the quality and depth in this draft. Picking up another pick or two in return for Revis, even late-round picks, also would be big.

The best landing spot for Revis would be a team that feels like it is only a player or two away from contending for - and winning - a Super Bowl.

As was the case a year ago when Revis was on the market, San Francisco would qualify. They need a quality cornerback. Revis on that defense, with that pass rush and those linebackers, would be scary.

While New England must get Tom Brady some more offensive weapons - that was apparent all season long but never more so than in the Patriots' AFC title game loss at Denver - they also could use Revis. Aqib Talib was a terrific addition in 2012, but he is a free agent who will be expensive. Revis would be an upgrade.

Atlanta is like Tampa Bay in that it needs to upgrade positions on both sides of the ball. The Falcons need to rebuild one half of their offensive line to better protect their most valuable asset, quarterback Matt Ryan. They, too, need a pass-rusher, and after releasing Asante Samuel last month, they also need a corner.

Philadelphia this week has been spending money to re-sign offensive players: Tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and wide receiver Riley Cooper so far, with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin likely up next. While the Eagles' defense was better than expected last season, Revis would be a significant upgrade over either corner. After a disastrous free-agent spending spree in 2011, the Philly brass might be wary of trading for a player slated to make $16 million, but the Eagles do have the money to spend.

It is certainly possible that Revis goes nowhere and is a significant contributor to Smith's first Bucs team. But it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for either the player or the franchise if Revis played elsewhere in 2014.

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