Contrary to the asinine ramblings that have been polluting the air on Denver sports talk radio of late, the Broncos are not in “win now” mode and will not break the bank by signing a host of big-name free agents. If fans are hoping that past-their-prime, big-name veterans like Brian Urlacher, Ed Reed, Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson, Steven Jackson or Wes Welker are going to bring their (fading) talents to the Mile High City, they will be severely disappointed.
Over-paying for players whose name is bigger than their game is just not how Broncos football boss John Elway does business. It is understandable how some fans want to their team to pursue the household names who hit the market. Yet a Daniel Snyder-like approach to free agency never works; “dream teams” might be all the rage in the NBA but they almost always fail to deliver results in the NFL.
Elway does not believe that building for the future and winning now are mutually exclusive. He has said many times that the key to long-term success in the NFL is to “stack good draft on top of good draft.”
However, there is one big-name (and big-money) player who might become available in whom Elway’s Broncos would have some interest – New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis is potentially available for the right price and, at age 27, is right in the prime of his career. He is not a washed-up former-great; he’s an elite player at a critical position and has lots of mileage left on left on his tires.
Newly-hired Jets General Manager John Idzik initially refused to neither “confirm nor deny” rumors that the Jets were exploring potential trade options for the three-time All Pro. The subsequent PR firestorm the trade rumors stirred up forced the Jets decision-makers – Idzik and Head Coach Rex Ryan – to backtrack. Yet, as history has shown, once the trade rumor train leaves the station, the odds of the player remaining with his current team decrease significantly.
Strange as it might seem on the surface for the Jets to entertain the idea of trading their best player, such a move could make sense when taking a deeper look. Despite their recent purge of the bloated contracts of Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Jason Smith, the Jets long-term salary cap situation remains troublesome.
Revis’ has an opt-out clause in his current contract that goes into effect after the 2013 season, thus allowing him to become a free agent in a year. He is almost assured to opt-out and seek a contract that will make him among the highest paid defensive players in the NFL; a five or six year deal worth between $80 and $90 million. The Jets will not be able to afford such a contract. The draft picks and/or players garnered in return for Revis would help their rebuilding effort.
New York could trade Revis now for a nice haul of draft picks or they could enjoy his services in the 2013 season only to watch him walk in 2014 and get nothing in return.
From Revis’ perspective, leaving New York might be in the best interest of his career. At 27, Revis has several years left in his prime, but might not want to spend half of them toiling away on a team that is undertaking a massive rebuilding effort. Denver would afford Revis the opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl ring right away. Unlike the dysfunctional Jets, who have resembled a circus as much as they have a football team recently, the Broncos are a premier organization with strong leadership, a championship mentality and a healthy locker room.
The Broncos have both an immediate and long-term need for a number-one cornerback. Denver has Champ Bailey, one of the finest players of his generation, but he is 34 years old and age has begun to catch up with him. The Broncos like second-year corner Chris Harris an awful lot but view him as best suited for nickel back role. Youngsters Omar Bolden and Tony Carter have nice skill sets but counting on either to grow into a starter, let alone a difference-making star, is far from assured.
Going into the offseason, a cornerback to start outside opposite Bailey is among Denver’s biggest needs. It is also a position on which Elway and the Denver coaching staff feel is enormously important in today’s pass-happy NFL.
By acquiring Revis, the Broncos could man Bailey up on the opposing teams’ number two wideout while Revis handles the number one. Having two corners who could lock down an opponents’ outside receivers, while Harris handles the slot, would make Denver’s already fearsome pass rush (52 sacks in 2012) even more deadly by using linebackers and a safeties to blitz rather than be left back in coverage. Acquiring Revis would instantly make the Broncos the Super Bowl favorite for the 2013 season.
The cost of Revis, both in terms of the contract the Broncos would have to give him and the draft picks they would have to give the Jets in a trade, would be high. But not be prohibitively high.
The Broncos are in a relatively healthy salary cap situation. Denver is currently about $18 million under the projected 2013 salary cap. Roughly half of that amount will go to free agent left tackle Ryan Clady, regardless of whether Clady gets the franchise tag (as expected) or is signed long-term.
To create more cap space, the Broncos can restructure the contracts of Elvis Dumervil ($13.623 million cap hit), Peyton Manning ($20 million), Bailey ($10.5 million) and Chris Kuper ($5.4 million). D.J Williams ($8 million cap hit) and Joe Mays ($4 million), both of whom are only situational players, will be asked to either take pay cuts or get released. In short, money will not prevent the Broncos from acquiring Revis.
The centerpiece of a trade for Revis would be Denver’s first round pick in upcoming NFL Draft, number 28 overall. Additional draft picks this year or in subsequent years or maybe even a player would also be part of the deal. Revis’ opt-out clause and the likely inability of the Jets to sign Revis long-term next year works against them, as does Revis’ ACL injury. Any team that trades for Revis would have to heavily investigate the health of Revis’ surgically-repaired knee. By all accounts his rehab is going well (but that has to be taken with a grain of salt; what else is his agent going to leak to the media?).
While Revis is five or six years older than the rookie Denver could draft with the 28th overall pick, he would do a great deal more to help the Broncos than anyone they could draft at that spot. And he would not be a short-term rental player; Revis, if acquired, would likely play out the remainder of his career (seven or more seasons) with the Broncos.
After pick number 28, what else would Denver have to give up? Their 2014 first round pick would be too much, but what about a 2014 second or third round pick? What about a starting-caliber player with a cheap contract who plays a position where the Jets have a need?
Whether the Jets ultimately opt to part ways with Revis remains unknown. At this point, it is certainly possible but by no means likely. It is also yet to be determined, at least publicly, what New York would want in return. However, if the stars align, a Revis Island in the Rocky Mountains would only add to the region’s beauty.