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Lichtenstein: Reality Check On Revis — You Rebuild Around QB, Not CB

By Steve Lichtenstein
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Pretty soon, Darrelle Revis will have enough money to actually buy his own island.

Anyone who has followed the career of the soon-to-be 30-year-old cornerback should have known that he was going wherever he saw the most green.

And by that I don't mean the color of the New York Jets' jerseys.

Everything played out perfectly for a Revis return to Gang Green. Jets owner Woody Johnson was willing to forgive and forget Revis' perceived disrespect for the sanctity of his previous contracts during his six-year run in New York that ended bitterly after the 2012 season. And new general manager Mike Maccagnan was under heavy pressure on Tuesday to make a big splash with all that salary cap room (approximately $45 million before he cut wide receiver Percy Harvin to offload his $10.5 million 2015 cap hit) and gaping holes all over his depth chart.

So it is in no way shocking that Revis thanked the Patriots for their parting gift—a Super Bowl ring—after one season of duty and agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal to come back to New York.

Aside from whatever penalties the Jets incur for Johnson's bumbling tampering back in December (you think Bob Kraft is just going to let this go?), the Jets will be on the hook for a guaranteed $16 million this season, $17 million the following year, and $6 million of his $15 million salary in 2017.

Here's another guarantee: Before then, Revis will either be diminished by injury or sudden Nnamdi Asomugha-like ineffectiveness and be cut with massive dead-money implications, or he will have outperformed this contract and hold out for more dough.

That's what you get with Revis. He has been among the best at his job for quite some time and he knows it. I don't blame him, considering the owners have all the leverage with the other 99 percent of their employees.

Revis' new deal is slightly less in total value than Arizona's Patrick Peterson's for tops among NFL corners, but Revis has by far more guaranteed money coming his way than anyone at his position. Only six players in the league will earn more in 2015. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is the only non-quarterback.

I can understand the excitement in Jets Nation when this agreement was announced, but let's take a step back and see where the Jets stand among their peers. Did they suddenly leapfrog over anyone in the AFC East?

I don't think so.

Remember that even at his best Revis only blankets one receiver at a time. What about the other four guys in the opponents' pass patterns?

The entire secondary needed major renovations, considering the Jets played all last season with the equivalent of band aids over their wounded unit.

Dee Milliner, who has been plagued by injuries ever since his first-round selection in the 2013 draft, missed the final 10 games last season after tearing his Achilles in a game against Denver. Last year's third-round pick Dexter McDougle didn't even make it out of preseason after an ACL tear in his left knee.

That left wannabes like Darrin Walls, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Allen, Phillip Adams and Marcus Williams to desecrate not only the island formerly occupied by Revis, but the entire field.

With so much extravagance expended to land his top target in free agency, Maccagnan better hope Revis stays upright. Maccagnan did also agree to dole out $25 million ($13 million guaranteed) over four years to former Browns cornerback Buster Skrine on Tuesday, but here's what you need to know about Skrine: He's got speed, but his size (5-foot-9) and over-aggressiveness (his 15 penalties led all CBs last season) are not where the league is going at the position. Pro Football Focus reported that last year teams completed 61.5 percent of passes thrown at Skrine, eight of them for touchdowns.

In other words, Skrine—if he's the new slot guy--might help us forget Wilson ever existed, but it would be a stretch to expect him to be a shut-down corner on the outside. More help is needed from Maccagnan to provide depth at corner and the starting free safety position has opened up as well.

The Revis signing not only stretched the budget for the secondary, but it could also be a factor in limiting the Jets options elsewhere.

So far this offseason Maccagnan has committed $31.2 million in 2015 cap space to Revis and two other players who will be on the wrong side of 30 when the season begins—wide receiver Brandon Marshall and linebacker David Harris—plus another approximately $10 million when the contracts for Skrine and guard James Carpenter are signed.

All of a sudden that monstrous cap room will dwindle to below $20 million. And that's before signing their draft choices or extending Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who could very well hold out this summer for more than the $6.96 million he's due in the final year of his contract. What if he wants Ndamukong Suh money?

Advice for Maccagnan and new coach Todd Bowles: Keep Wilkerson away from Revis.

The real bottom line is this: Even with Revis, how much better do you think the Jets got this offseason?

Yes, Revis was terrific for the Patriots last season. But a lot of players coached by Bill Belichick have played well in that uniform. Revis' impact the prior year wasn't as great in Tampa Bay, which went 4-12 behind coach Greg Schiano and quarterbacks who were not Tom Brady.

With Harvin and running back Chris Johnson jettisoned, the Jets lost their top two long-gain threats from an offense that struggled to create big plays. The offensive line is decaying around center Nick Mangold—Carpenter is not considered much of an upgrade over Willie Colon and I'm guessing Bowles will fill the other guard slot with a player to be named later. The trade for Marshall should help the Jets in the red zone, but they have to get there first.

That's because of the humungous elephant in Maccagnan's office: the Jets' quarterback deficiency.

Nothing that Maccagnan does will matter if the Jets do not find, develop, and pay for a legitimate NFL starting quarterback.

Does the Revis signing hinder that pursuit? Not initially. The free agent QBs available on the rack this offseason have abilities ranging from well-below-average to outright "Yuck!" Maccagnan can't be faulted for not ponying up for guys like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, or—god forbid—Mark Sanchez.

It remains to be seen what direction Maccagnan now goes to find an upgrade over incumbent Geno Smith. Oregon star Marcus Mariota might not be available to be chosen by the Jets with the sixth pick in the first round of the draft on April 30, and it's an open question as to whether he even has the tools to succeed in the NFL.

If Ryan Fitzpatrick is indeed released by Houston, I can see the Jets having some interest. However, in this marketplace, even a journeyman like Fitzpatrick will get multiple offers—and they will probably exceed his current cap number of $3,875,000.

The ideal would be for Maccagnan to use his draft picks—maybe even his first pick--to entice a team to trade him a quarterback. It's not going to be Aaron Rodgers, but I'll settle for someone serviceable. For a while, I talked myself into Nick Foles, but that was before the Eagles sent him to St. Louis on Tuesday.

In a year, it might take a significant commitment to retain such a player. When that happens, I don't want to hear that Maccagnan doesn't have any cap space because he's splurging now for players who won't come close to putting the Jets over the top this season.

Jets fans love Revis, but in this league you rebuild your franchise around a quarterback, not a cornerback.

For a FAN's perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.

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