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Hurley: No Sugarcoating Patriots' Loss Of Revis, But Belichick Has A Plan

BOSTON (CBS) -- So much for the honeymoon.

Just a month and-a-half removed from winning the Super Bowl and reaching the pinnacle of the NFL mountain, the Patriots have sent their fan base into a tailspin of rage, doubt, anger, and disbelief.

Darrelle Revis is a New York Jet.

And the question the following morning is why? And also how? And then, again, why? Did Bill Belichick not see the impact that Revis had on this team last year? Did he suddenly forget about that 10-year stretch of coming up just short of winning the Super Bowl, when the secondary was far and away the biggest weakness on the team? Did he not think bringing Revis back was paramount to the Patriots' chances of winning it all again next year or even the year after?

The answer to most of those questions is yes. Of course. He's Bill Belichick. He thinks of everything. The next time he gets caught off guard will be the first time. So while it is understandable to disagree with the Patriots' principles as it relates to spending money, one cannot really question Belichick's overall decision-making. He's got himself a decent track record (175-65 regular season, 21-8 postseason, for those keeping track at home).

But much more remains unsolved, so let's try to explore the issue a bit deeper.

The Blame Game

So you're mad. Who can you blame?

You might be best off blaming nobody.

Darrelle Revis is who he is. He is a man who understands he has a limited number of years to make the maximum amount of money he can. He has never made any false pretense about his intentions. He goes to the highest bidder. And in this case the highest bidder just so happened to be the team he most wanted to play for.

If anything, given the cornerback's history with holding out for every last possible dollar, one could believe that getting Revis for just $12 million in the prime of his career and winning a Super Bowl could go down as the steal of the century.

So they have to pay him $5 million of that contract this year? That's a worthwhile price to pay for the shiny new Lombardi Trophy in Foxboro.

Revis wears that mercenary tag, fair or unfair, but his move to New York actually goes against that idea. This is the team that drafted him, the team that initially paid him well, and the team that made him a star. He went back, and he called it "home." No other team could have offered that same appeal.

If you want to blame the Patriots, you can, but know this: they were competing against a desperate team. The Patriots are trying to build a perennial Super Bowl contender; the Jets are trying to win the back pages. They did that by signing Revis, but they're nowhere closer to winning a Super Bowl or even making the playoffs than they were last year, when they went 4-12, fired the head coach, and fired the general manager. Quarterback extraordinaires Geno Smith and Michael Vick combined to throw 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season.

Yes, they got Revis – hooray! They still don't have a quarterback, and they're still not a threat in the AFC East.

They made this move because the owner involved himself in the business of the football team and wanted to make up for what was one of many stains on his resume. He certainly atoned for one of them, but it won't mean much if the Jets continue to be the Jets.

What About The Option Year?

There has been much kvetching about the Patriots' decision to not exercise the second year of Revis' contract, thereby taking on the $25 million cap hit and maintaining control over the player. It's my belief (read: guess) that when the Patriots and Revis agreed to their deal last year, it was done as a one-year deal with the language of a two-year deal for salary-cap reasons.

Sure, the Patriots technically could have exercised that option -- and their will -- over Revis, but doing so might also be breaking an understood agreement and might bring about an unhappy Revis. And as "Hard Knocks" showed in great detail a few years back, an unhappy Revis makes for a summer-long headache. The Patriots didn't want that.

Overall, I wouldn't put much stock in the option year. It never really existed in either side's minds.

What Now?

For those in New England who aren't particularly angry, there remains the question of just what the Patriots are to do now that they have lost Darrelle Revis and are likely to lose Brandon Browner as well. That's a fair question.

A glance at the depth chart does not inspire too much confidence that the defense can look anywhere as effective as it did last year: Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Malcolm Butler. That's not exactly a "put it on the board, Houshamazilly, championship" crop of corners.

The free-agent market is weak and it's not likely that the Patriots are going to swing some sort of trade to bring a high-profile corner to the team. They are so few and far between that teams tend to lock them up whenever they have the chance (Patriots excluded).

And beyond that position, many will look to the expected departure of Vince Wilfork or the big money tied up in Jerod Mayo and they will wonder what the defense is going to look like next season. Again, that is fair to wonder, but again, that is next season. It's only mid-March. There is reason for doubt, but there's not a reason for panic.

Why???

OK, back to this one. Why? Why is Darrelle Revis, arguably the third-most important player on the Super Bowl-winning team, not back? Well for one, there is the reality that no championship team stays together. It's standard for teams to look at the team that just won the Super Bowl and pick as many players as possible off the roster. Why else do you think Jonathan Casillas got a deal in the first half-hour of free agency?

Second, there is the personal desire of Revis. Yes, he wants the money but I don't think it's wrong to assume that the Jets mean something to him. He at least is trying to make that case himself.

And lastly, there are the business principles that guide all decisions at 1 Patriot Place. Dedicating X amount of money in the secondary is considered bad business in the eyes of Bill Belichick. That's why Lawyer Milloy was jettisoned, it's why Ty Law and Asante Samuel took off to cash in on free agency. They were great players, they helped win Super Bowls, but they still had a maximum value in the eyes of the Patriots.

And that's once more the case this time around with Revis, who was only going to remain in New England if he wanted to take less money to be Tom Brady's teammate and compete for Super Bowls for a few more years. He didn't want that, and so he's a Jet.

To call the Patriots "cheap" in this instance would be inaccurate. They just gave Devin McCourty $28.5 million guaranteed, and they were reportedly willing to give Revis $35 million. That's cheap?

The Jets make poor decisions; this should not reflect poorly on the Patriots.

Again, we live in a world with free will. If you want to feel outraged at the Patriots for not going the extra mile and making the biggest offer, such is your right. But you can't forget that Belichick always has a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and probably a Plan E as well. With Milloy, it was Rodney Harrison. Law suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8 of 2004; the Patriots won the Super Bowl without him. And though there was no heir apparent to Samuel following his post-2007 departure, the Patriots played 2008 with a top-10 defense without him.

What Belichick's next play might be is truly anyone's guess. In the most unpredictable sport, he's the most unpredictable leader. But by now, you should know better than to think he didn't have a plan in mind for this exact situation.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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