With less than a week to go before the curtain comes up on another NFL season, one of the enduring stars of the last decade currently sits idle. Darrelle Revis, most recently and most famously of the New York Jets, gained a reputation through the first nine years of his career as the league’s elite shutdown corner. Pacey, but not the fastest player in his position, Revis has been best known for his in-depth study of the receivers he covered. His ability to cover them like a shadow led to the nickname “Revis Island”; any receiver he was assigned to was as good as out of the game.
Revis is in his current position for two reasons: firstly, the Jets are on the hook for $6 million of salary that will be paid to Revis whether he dons the cleats or not, per the NFL website. Only if another team is willing to match or exceed that is it in his interests to play. Secondly, in the 2016 season, Revis’ dominance over receivers — previously so absolute as to make him a seeming certainty for Hall of Fame honors — fell away dramatically. He allowed a passer rating against him of 91.4, far in excess of his previous career total of 59.3, and the Jets chose not to exercise the option to keep him around.
Such a drop-off in performance could be attributed to age catching up with a player. However, Revis is hardly ancient at 32. Darrell Green was still playing cornerback for Washington into his forties. At 37, Rod Woodson led the NFL in interceptions while playing for the Oakland Raiders — although he had moved inside to play safety by that stage. Last year, Brent Grimes rated as one of the top five cornerbacks in the league according to USA Today, and is a year Revis’ senior. It might be argued that a lack of commitment, or a general absence of direction at a team coming apart at the seams (the Jets are backed by some to go 0-16 this season), stymied Revis’ motivation, and a change of scene could get the best from him.
One other fly in the ointment is that teams are likely to be unwilling to pay a starter’s salary to a player who has expressed in his own words that his physical prowess is falling away. The Steelers, who until recently had been the team most strongly linked with Revis, have just inked a deal with Joe Haden after the cornerback was released by Cleveland. Pittsburgh native Revis could yet land there if he’s willing to play safety, but the trail seems to have gone cold for now.
Of course, all of this means that No. 24 could start the season without a team, and be picked up as a free agent during the season by a team that finds one of their starters injured or underperforming. Miami, who lost Tony Lippett to a season-ending injury and have seen lackluster preseason production from expected starter Byron Maxwell, could be one potential destination.
For the moment, though, the possibility is that Revis, who just a few years ago could have expected to play out his career in front of an adoring Jets crowd, may face the indignity of hanging up his helmet because of a lack of interest from any of the 32 NFL clubs, an end unbefitting the overall quality of his playing career.
[Featured Image by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images]