There is a little-known rule in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement that is having a big-time impact on the New York Jets' stalled negotiations with star cornerback Darrelle Revis -- and it likely will sabotage any chance of signing Revis to a contract extension before the start of the season.
It's called the "reallocation rule,” and it explains, in part, why the Jets’ offer to Revis includes virtually no fully guaranteed money. By “fully” guaranteed, we mean it’s guaranteed against skill and injury, ensuring the player gets paid no matter what.
The rule states that, when doing a contract extension in an uncapped year, future guarantees against skill and injury must fit under the team’s 2009 salary cap. In the Jets’ case, that doesn’t leave much at all, as they had only about $300,000 in leftover cap space -- a relative drop in the bucket. They can offer more than that for skill or injury, but not both.
Hence, the recent D’Brickashaw Ferguson contract.
The Jets’ Pro Bowl left tackle signed a six-year, $60 million extension that includes $34.8 million guarantees, most of which is guaranteed against skill, but not injury. In some circles, Ferguson and his agent were criticized for accepting that kind of risk. The Jets, too, got ripped, with people saying they were being tight with the purse strings.
In reality, both sides had to deal with significant restrictions based on the rules. Yes, Ferguson could suffer a career-ending injury in 2010, which would jeopardize $22.9 million in guarantees from 2011 to 2013 (he needs to be on the roster Feb. 15 for that to trigger). The Jets gave him the option – skill or injury guarantee – and he chose skill. By the time he steps on the practice field Aug. 2 in Cortland, he will have an insurance policy that will cover the $30 million in remaining guarantees in case of a catastrophic injury.
No doubt, the Jets’ offer to Revis is based on a similar structure. It’s believed to be about $11 million-to-$13 million-per-year range, with guarantees against skill or injury -- but not both. Presumably, the offer includes little or no signing bonus. There’s no way Revis, due to make $1 million this season and threatening a training-camp holdout, will accept that kind of deal. He was insulted when it was first proposed.
But the Jets can’t totally hide behind the reallocation rule as the reason for not re-upping with Revis. There’s no rule that prevents them from trying to satisfy Revis with a huge signing bonus of say, $25 million. That would be quite a statement, owner Woody Johnson announcing to his customers (and would-be customers) that he wants to build a championship-caliber team with staying power. That, too, would eliminate the whispers about a cash-flow problem due to lagging PSL sales.
But there’s little chance of that happening.
For one thing, the days of the eight-figure signing bonus are just about gone. The Jets’ last one came in 2008, when they signed LB Calvin Pace to a free-agent deal that included an $11 million signing bonus. In addition, with a 2011 lockout looming, Johnson, like other owners, is freaked out about doling out enormous bonus checks. The Jets told Ferguson during negotiations there was no way they were going to cut a monster check.
Knowing the uncertain labor landscape, and the tight restrictions with regard to contract extensions, GM Mike Tannenbaum probably shouldn’t have told Revis after the season that they wanted to re-do his contract. It was false hope. Revis took it as a promise. Now here they are, two weeks before training camp, miles apart on a deal that probably won't get done this year.