NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Less than 24 hour ago many Patriots fans were headed to the Tobin Bridge. Fans were take the leap after the Broncos once again plucked the Patriots top unrestricted free agent and after the Patriots did… well, nothing. Fast forward 24 hours later and not only have the Patriots replaced Aqib Talib, they upgraded.
Early Wednesday night, Bill Belichick swooped in and pulled off arguably the biggest free agent coup in Patriots history, landing All-World CB Darrelle Revis.
Here are my thoughts on the Revis signing, what it means, and where both sides go from here.
1. The Patriots defense immediately gets better- We saw what Aqib Talib’s man to man shut down cover skills meant to the Patriots defense last season. When Talib was on the field and at 100% he took away the opposing teams top receiver and allowed the rest of the defensive backs to slot into correct spot. Now picture a cornerback that is better in man to man coverage, much more durable, more reliable, and more technical. That is Darrelle Revis. Forget comparing Revis to other cornerback’s in the game. Over the last five years he is the cream of the crop, it doesn’t get any better.
Revis’ addition will allow the Patriots to be more flexible and creative with what they do on defense. They can blitz more, mix up different coverages, disguise in a different way, all while knowing that Revis will eliminate the best player on the field. Assuming the Patriots continue to supplement the defense with veteran signings and draft picks, their defense will enter the 2014 Season in a strong position than if they had Aqib Talib in the fold. Last night, that looked nearly impossible.
2. Bill Belichick silences the critics that say the Patriots are cheap - Darrelle Revis will make 12 million dollars from the Patriots next season, meaning he once again is the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. There has been a misconception around the fanbase that the Patriots are cheap and don’t pay top of the market value. Even though that sentiment is completely false; the Patriots have paid Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Adalius Thomas, etc… top of the market deals, the signing of Revis should end that talk once and for all.
3. Both the Patriots and Revis got themselves a good deal – In a perfect world, the Patriots would love to have Revis locked up long term. In this situation where they just lost their top corner and the market was dwindling, they had to make concessions. From the Patriots perspective, it was important to get Revis off the market and under team control.
The Patriots and Revis now have 12 months to work out a long term extension. As long as no language is built into the contract—reports by Albert Breer suggest that it is not—the Patriots can franchise Revis at the end of next year and pay him nearly the same salary, while controlling his rights.
From the Revis perspective he gets to keep playing on a one year deal that pays him as the top corner in the game. If Revis has his typical season, he goes back on the market next season as a 29 year old elite corner, looking to cash in again. The risk with that is, if he gets hurt then his long term value will be greatly diminished. Similarly, if Revis gets hurt this year he gets paid fully and the team wasted 12 million dollars for nothing. Both sides made concessions to get this deal done and both sides are assuming some risk. But, there is no doubt both the Patriots and Darrelle Revis benefit from this agreement.
4. Excitement in the Fanbase -After a rough off-season in 2013, one where their top Wide Receiver was stolen by the competitor, and their star young Tight End was lost to a murder charge, the excitement is back in the fanbase. The month of March can be depressing around here. It’s tough to watch star players leave town and sign with other teams, all the while the Patriots are signing guys like Donald Jones or Jonathan Fanene. This move makes up for all of that.
The fanbase is ecstatic and frankly, in shock over this move and they have every right to be. This off-season is different, the Patriots punch back at John Elway, and finally decide to go “all in” to win a championship while they still have #12. (No matter what the team says)
5. Patriots stick it to both the Jets and Broncos - Perhaps the best part of this acquisition is knowing Rex Ryan is devastated. Revis was the centerpiece of the Jets defense and really, Rex Ryan’s “binky”. The Jets operated carefully, the last three years making sure they structured Revis’ deal so he wouldn’t be able to land in New England. Now one year after trading him to Tampa Bay (and got a great deal), the Jets nightmare is realized, Revis is a Patriot. It has to make Ryan and all Jets fans sick to their stomachs thinking about Revis in Foxboro, and knowing you have to go through the Patriots (and now Revis) to win the division.
The Broncos and John Elway have to be second guessing themselves a little big when seeing the Darrelle Revis deal come down. Yes, the Talib contract is less money per year, but 26 million guaranteed over 6 years is a huge committment to a player that hasn’t played a 16 game season in seven seasons. If the Talib signing doesn’t work out in Denver, it will have cap ramifications for years. Meanwhile, if the Revis signing doesn’t work out in New England they will simply let him walk at the end of next season or franchise tag him to trade him, and the cap is not effected. A shrewd move by Bill Belichick.
6. Revis wanted to be a Patriot - One thing is certain, if Revis wanted to play for another team, he wouldn’t be a Patriot. It’s been known in league circles for weeks that Darrelle Revis would be cut before the second day of the league year. That’s part of the reason why no team would part with draft picks for Revis. I am hearing tonight that Revis worked his way to New England by refusing to renegotiate his contract with other teams, essentially scaring off all other suitors.
If Revis wanted to be a Cleveland Brown he would have restructured to go there. If he wanted to be an Oakland Raider, he would be there. If he wanted to get every last nickel, he wouldn’t be in New England, that’s for sure. In the end, Darrelle Revis wanted to be a Patriot as much as they wanted him.
7. Where the Patriots Go From Here - Darrelle Revis was the single best acquisition the Patriots could reasonably land this off-season. There is literally no better player, who helps them more than Darrelle Revis does. With that being said, there is still plenty of work to do on the roster and I know the Patriots are following a carefully orchestrated off-season game plan.
- Get Julian Edelman and another WR in the fold: This is the biggest need at this point. I expect at least one WR to be brought into the fold within the next 24 hours.
- Create More Cap Space: Darrelle Revis will eat up 12 million dollars of their available cap space, meaning they have no choice but create more. The move likely means a resolution to Vince Wilfork’s situation is coming (one way or another) and that players like Adrian Wilson and Dan Connolly could be cap causalities to create room.
- Upgrade the Front Seven: Expect the Patriots to turn their attention to the defensive line in coming days as they look to supplement their pass rush and improve the run defense.
- Get LeGarrette Blount signed: The RB market looks putrid right now and it’s increasingly likely the Patriots can get Blount back on a reasonable deal
- Look to add veterans to Safety, OG/OC, LB, and TE: Linebacker seems to be one of their concentrations early in free agency and I expect it to continue tomorrow. As the market comes down look for them to start adding veterans to the positions of need.