In the summer of 2010, Woody Johnson gave Darrelle Revis a four-year, $46 million contract meant to be revisited at a later date. Revis left those talks believing the New York Jets were committed to redoing his deal after two years, and the Jets left them believing they were committed to redoing his deal after three.
This was the source of their brief spat last July before Revis agreed to report to camp, buckle up his chinstrap and play for a $7.5 million wage. He would ultimately blow out his knee and watch the Jets stagger to a 6-10 record that would cost general manager Mike Tannenbaum the job now held by John Idzik.
The Jets have a new boss above Rex Ryan, and three new coordinators below him, but one thing never changed: The promise. In 2012, when they were busy refuting the Revis camp's claim that a renegotiation was supposed to go down after Year 2, a senior Jets official confirmed that the renegotiation was always scheduled for 2013, when the Jets had no intention of having Revis play for $6 million, or less than half his market value.
So here we are in 2013, and guess what? The Jets don't want to give their best player a new deal after all. They prefer to trade Revis not because of the knee injury, and not because they suspect he isn't quite the all-time Jet his own coach has made him out to be.
They prefer to trade Revis because Woody Johnson doesn't want to do the deal his words and actions said he'd do in 2010.
Actually, his football guy, Tannenbaum, is the one who made it public at the time. "This is an intermediate step," the GM said, "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."
Tannenbaum was saying only what Johnson cleared him to say, and again, what a senior team official confirmed last summer. The Jets were calling the four-year deal to end the holdout "an intermediate step." Revis? He was calling it a "Band-Aid," surely a more fitting term for an owner born into the Johnson & Johnson family.
Now Woody wants to skip that intermediate step and make the soiled Band-Aid someone else's problem. A league source confirmed reports that the Jets have talked to multiple teams about the possibility of trading Revis, and no matter how you slice it this is bad NFL business.
The Jets are negotiating with other teams before they negotiate with Revis himself.
Though the Jets haven't peddled the corner around the league, they have listened to some interested parties. It would've been nice if they'd listened to the most interested party of all, Revis, to find out how much money he's actually looking for and how badly he wants to remain a Jet.
It's the most amazing part of this story, really, that Revis hopes to finish his career with the Jets as much as Derek Jeter and Eli Manning hope to finish with the Yankees and Giants. Revis, 27, was born 16 years after the Jets' one-and-done appearance in the Super Bowl, and yet he burns to do what Joe Namath did not -- retire a one-uniform lifer.
Revis is the league's undisputed heavyweight champ at corner. His work ethic is never in question, and people around the league know Adrian Peterson is hardly the only player to fully recover from a serious knee injury. Revis is on the front end of his prime, he wants to stay, and his head coach wants him to stay, too.
And yet the Jets haven't bothered to talk to his agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod. They haven't bothered to see if Revis truly wants Mario Williams money (six years, $100 million), or if he wants Calvin Johnson money (eight years, $132 million), or if he wants a figure north or south or somewhere in between.
The Jets haven't bothered to see if Revis is willing to offer a bit of a hometown discount, or a bit of a surgically-repaired knee discount. They haven't bothered to see if he's open to doing a cap-friendly deal, or if he's A-OK with modest guaranteed cash in a longer-term deal.
Remember, in the NFL, most of these mega-contracts contain barrels of Monopoly money in them. Unlike the A-Rods and LeBrons of the world, Revis would be guaranteed to see about half of a potential nine-figure deal.
But right now, the Jets are acting as if they want Revis on another team's payroll as quickly as possible. They should be focusing on signing him rather than moving him. Ryan knows a Revis trade for draft picks would all but seal his fate this time next year, when a third consecutive non-playoff season will land him in Tannenbaum's shoes.
Ryan would much prefer to trade Antonio Cromartie and apply the savings to Revis, according to a league source. If Johnson and Idzik truly want to give their coach the fighting chance they say they want to give him (You see why Woody should've fired Rex along with Tannenbaum?), shouldn't they ship out Cromartie instead of Revis, the superior player and character guy?
This is where the team owner has to declare himself. Even as he tries to adhere to a budget his father would've scoffed at, Hal Steinbrenner broke with team policy to pursue a deal with his best player, Robinson Cano, a pending free agent who will want at least $200 million, all guaranteed. Even as he pulled himself from the rubble of the Bernie Madoff mess, Fred Wilpon signed his best player, David Wright, a pending free agent who came off the board at eight years and $138 million, all guaranteed.
How does Woody Johnson respond when his best player and pending free agent steps to the plate and swings for a guarantee worth less than half of Wright's? By ordering the intentional pass?
Three years ago, right after the Jets lost the AFC title game in Indianapolis, Tannenbaum approached Revis' agents near the team bus and told them for the first time he wanted the corner to be a Jet for life, the franchise's answer to Jeter. But that was then and this is now.
Revis hurt his knee, and Mike Tannenbaum became John Idzik, who's apparently telling Rex as little as possible about the status of his favorite player. Johnson spent too much money on the wrong guys, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes among them, and now he'd rather not spend it on the right guy, the guy who did the Band-Aid deal to get to this point.
Revis should actually be rooting for a trade, hoping and praying for one, to get to a team with a credible shot of winning him a ring. Instead he's cut against the grain of the typical superstar athlete stuck with a losing franchise. He's demanded a non-trade.
Johnson should take advantage of that and order Idzik to spend his time and energy on signing Revis now, and trading Cromartie later. And if Idzik finds in the coming weeks that Revis' agents are asking for an unreasonable sum -- unreasonable as it would be defined by any NFL owner driven to win a title and make the on-field product worthy of the fans' investment in PSLs -- then go ahead and trade him.
But Woody Johnson had better make a good-faith effort to sign Revis first. Otherwise, he'll need more than a Band-Aid to cover the damage to his brand.