Darrelle Revis is returning to the Jets, and he isn't coming cheap. Nor should he! He's far and away the best corner in the game—maybe by a larger extent than anyone else is the best at their position—and he's getting paid like it, the latest in what has shaken out to be a series of brilliant career decisions on Revis's part.
Per Dom Cosentino of NJ Advance Media, the Jets' five-year deal is frontloaded, with the full $16 million in 2015, $17 million in 2016, and $6 million of the $15 million in 2017 coming fully guaranteed. So in actuality, this is a three-year deal, taking Revis through his age-32 season, with $39 million in guaranteed money. And just think: a year ago at this time, Revis took less cash and less security in the hopes of landing a Super Bowl ring and a long-term, big-money contract. He got everything he wanted.
Revis and his agents have done this right almost every time in his eight years in the league, because he's an amazing player, yes, but also because he isn't hesitant to utilize a holdout (or the threat of one), which is really a player's only weapon mid-contract, and a completely fair one given that teams can bail on NFL contracts at any time.
He held out as a rookie, and again in 2010—the second time a full monthlong holdout capping a seven-month stalemate that saw Revis accrue more than a half-million dollars in fines. It was worth it: what was supposed to be a compromise, a "Band-Aid deal," carried an $18 million roster bonus and paid him more than $32 million in 2010 and 2011.
But after that bonus was paid out and his base salary dropped, Revis again began making noise about a new deal. He was certainly worth more than the $4.5 million base salary he was due in 2012, but this time he couldn't do much about it: the Jets had built "holdout protection" into his last extension. If he didn't show up to camp, three more years, at $3 million each, would automatically be tacked on to the end of his contract. He showed up to camp, but he wasn't happy.
After a season lost to injury, the Jets traded Revis to Tampa Bay with one year still remaining on his deal, to get at least some value from him rather than losing him for nothing to free agency. (Revis's camp had negotiated a clause into his contract that barred the Jets from franchising him.) "There was a substantial difference between Darrelle's view of his value and ours," GM John Idzik said at the time. Revis proved closer to correct, getting a supposed six-year, $96 million deal from the Buccaneers, but oddly—perhaps because of his ACL injury and his penchant for holdouts—that contract contained no guaranteed money.
Revis got $16 million for his one season in Tampa—still a record for a cornerback. He was great, but the Bucs were terrible, and committed to a full rebuild with a new coach and a new GM, and couldn't justify devoting that much cap space to a single player on a team with dozens of holes. After failing to trade him or convince him to take a pay cut, the Buccaneers released Revis, and that same day he signed what amounted to a one-year deal (with an unrealistic option for a second year) with the Patriots.
This was Revis's biggest gamble. He got $12 million—a veritable bargain compared to what he might've fetched elsewhere—for the chance to play for a winning team that would make him look good, and then cash in on the open market. It worked to perfection. Revis got his championship, got to portray himself as a guy who isn't always just looking for the biggest paycheck, and got his monster deal from the team he broke in with. From a branding standpoint alone, Revis's Tampa exile and New England sojourn and New York homecoming were invaluable. Of course, he needn't consider it from just that standpoint, and thanks to the Jets coming back to their senses, he can put an exact price tag on what it's all been worth.