As of now, the Bucs are the only strong suitor for Darrelle Revis, league sources said Thursday, setting up a high-stakes game of poker between them and the Jets.
Senior officials from both teams will be under the same roof at the NFL meetings, starting Sunday in Phoenix. You'd have to think there will be conversations between the two sides as the Revis trade drama (will they or won't they?) stretches to two months.
Both teams have risk; so does Revis. Let's examine:
The Jets: They're taking a deliberate approach, trying to give the impression they're under no pressure to do anything. Technically, they don't because Revis is under contract for another year, but no one really expects it to get that far. The Jets are rebuilding and they want draft picks, so they're willing to listen to offers. They're waiting for an offer they can't refuse -- i.e. the Bucs' first-round pick (13th overall) -- but the Bucs are refusing to part with it, sources said.
If the Jets overplay their hand, they run the risk of alienating the team that wants him the most. They could wait until the summer, when Revis' surgically repaired knee is healthy. In theory, that would make him more marketable, but what kind of market would there be? If they wait until the Week 8 trading deadline, it stands to reason the most interested teams would be contenders, meaning their 2014 first-round picks would be toward the bottom of the round.
The Bucs: First of all, it's risky to trade for a player only five months removed from major surgery, but the Bucs are on board, sources said -- on board at their price, that is. But they want a game changer at cornerback. The Bucs have a terrific safety tandem with Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, whom they signed for $41 million, but great safeties don't mean much with mediocre corners -- especially in a division with lethal quarterback-receiver combos in Atlanta and New Orleans.
There are some decent cornerback options on the free-agent market, but no one of Revis' caliber. They could draft a cornerback at No. 13, but then you're talking about a learning curve. The Bucs can extend the poker game until the draft, seeing who blinks first. Of course, if they wait, there's always the chance another bidder will get involved.
Revis: The early cornerback market has to be sobering for the Revis camp. The contracts are coming in lower than expected. Sean Smith, one of the top free-agent corners, signed with the Chiefs for only $6 million a year. Obviously, a healthy Revis is an elite player, but it will be hard in this climate to land a deal worth $16 million a year. Of course, it only takes one -- and the Revis camp evidently feels it has that one in the Bucs, who have plenty of cap room and a willingness to spend.
In an ideal world, Revis would rather make his next big score with the Jets, but that probably won't happen. He's looking for greener pastures, and the greenest is located in Tampa. It could be Tampa or bust for Revis, so you can bet there's an increased sense of urgency to make it happen. They're pushing for a Jets-Bucs meeting in Phoenix -- a showdown in the desert to dicuss the future of a player with his own "island."