Great NFL teams aren’t built by overspending in free agency — even on elite talents such as Darrelle Revis.
The New England Patriots reportedly are interested in Revis, who’s currently available in a trade and is expected to be released if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can’t find a deal for the cornerback. A trade is nearly out of the question for the Patriots. They would have to give up a high draft pick, and Revis is signed to a five-year contract worth $16 million per season.
There’s some flexibility in that deal, but even if the Patriots lower Revis’ salary-cap hit in 2014 by turning non-guaranteed money into bonuses, it just raises his yearly cap number from 2015 to 2018. A restructured contract would need to come with a trade, and Revis would have no reason to agree to lowering his salary.
If the Patriots traded for Revis, it likely would be a one-year rental and they would have to absorb those cap hits down the road. It makes more sense for them to sign a cheaper cornerback and keep the compensation (in this case, likely a draft pick).
If Revis is released, a deal with the Patriots is more likely, but that doesn’t mean it would be wise. Revis still will cost a lot of money — likely upwards of $13 million per year. The Patriots probably could sign a top cornerback (either Aqib Talib, Alterruan Verner or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), plus a veteran wide receiver (which they’ll need since Aaron Dobson had foot surgery that could halt his progress) for the same amount of money.
Revis obviously would help the Patriots’ pass defense, but they still would need upgrades at defensive end and defensive tackle. The Patriots aren’t completely strapped for cap space — they have nearly $14.5 million to spend, according to Spotrac.com — but it’s also wise to save some room to spend during the season and carry over to 2015.
Signing Revis could mean not signing wide receivers Julian Edelman or Emmanuel Sanders. It could mean not signing a defensive end such as Jared Allen or a defensive tackle such as Jason Hatcher or Kevin Williams.
Revis is better than Talib or Verner, but is he more valuable to a defense than an already great cornerback, plus a player who can disrupt the opposing quarterback? Probably not.
Let’s not forget that the Patriots recently released safety Steve Gregory. Which means that if Revis is signed or traded for, Duron Harmon would be thrust into a starting role.
Revis long has been a pipe dream for Patriots fans, but it’s probably wise for him to stay that way. The Patriots would be smart to let a team such as the Oakland Raiders or Cleveland Browns, who have plenty of money to overspend, trade for the top cornerback.
The Patriots have put together 13 consecutive winning seasons by following a simple formula of refusing to overspend. There’s no reason to break that tradition now.