The New England Patriots, coming off what may have been the most dramatic Super Bowl win in the 49-year history of the NFL championship game, suddenly find themselves blocked and at a standstill — and there’s nothing that Tom Brady or Bill Belichick can do about it.
The reason the Patriots, who face tough decisions on five key players as soon as the March 10 signing period begins, are being held hostage has a name — and his name is Darrelle Revis. No player was more responsible for the defensive renaissance in New England in the 2014 season — and arguably the cornerback deserves at least as much credit as Tom Brady himself for the Patriots’ remarkable 15-4 season culminating in the Super Bowl victory in Glendale, Arizona, February 1.
But as any Patriots fan knows, Revis was on a one-year contract and becomes a free agent on March 10 — unless New England antes up a $20 million contract option that would guarantee one more year of shut down coverage by Revis for the Patriots. But given that the option plus some pro-rated bonus payments put the Revis value against the salary cap at $25 million.
With an expected salary cap figure of $140 million, that means Revis alone would consume almost 18 percent of the Patriots cap room — meaning that Belichick is virtually guaranteed to pass on that option.
So the Patriots must negotiate a new, cap-friendly contract with Revis. The problem is, earlier in 2014, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson announced publicly that he plans to try to reacquire Revis, bringing the NFL’s best cornerback back to the franchise that picked him in the first round of the 2007 draft, out of the University of Pittsburgh.
Johnson’s comments were prohibited under NFL rules as blatant tampering, and Johnson later attempted to put his toothpaste back in the tube, saying, “I would never interfere in the contractual relationship of a player with another team and should not have used those words.”
But it was too late. Revis can now be certain that the Jets will make him an offer, and likely a highly lucrative one.
“Woody Johnson saw to it that Revis knew his Jets were interested in bringing Revis back a month ago (a classic case of tampering that the league still has done nothing about),” wrote Patriots Comcast New England beat writer Tom E. Curran.
“It’s also known the Bills are interested in Revis and — now that Rex Ryan’s in charge out there — it’s a more palatable situation for Revis.”
Johnson’s comments, according to NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, have created a situation in which Revis has no incentive to entertain the Patriots efforts to renegotiate his deal.
That Revis situation is delaying Patriots decisions on such key players as cornerback Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
“If they cut him, they don’t have to pay the $20 million, but they lose their best defensive player,” wrote Pro Football Talk.
“If they keep him, the $25 million cap charge may make it impossible for the Patriots to afford other key players who are slated to become free agents.”
As a result, March 10 may come and go without the New England Patriots 2015 roster looking any more certain than it does now. Thanks, Woody.