Is Darrelle Revis really being underpaid?

I live far enough away from New York that I can only occasionally receive the broadcasts of WFAN, and have to make some effort to check out the local media buzz about sports. From what I’ve been able to suss out, though, it seems the majority opinion is that the Jets are being too hardline with Darrelle Revis and really should give him what he wants.

Some say that the Jets have a legit shot at a Super Bowl with Revis, but not really without him. I disagree, but I’ll let their fans debate that one. But others contend that Revis’ demands are reasonable, that he’s the best corner in the league, that he’s “outplayed his contract” and that he deserves to be paid at least as much as Nnamdi Asomugha.

I beg to differ. Not with all of those points, only with the conclusion.

Darrelle Revis

Is Revis being reasonable? That depends on how one analyzes the situation, of course, and is a matter of opinion.

Is he the best corner in the league? Some might argue the point, but I say yes, he is.

Has Revis outplayed his contract? Yes.

But does that mean the Jets should be expected to give him a long-term deal commensurate with Asomugha’s? Keeping in mind that the Raiders were widely viewed to have overpaid Asomugha, let’s use him as a benchmark.

Thanks to my brother who did some research to find these numbers (source: USA Today’s salary database), we can look at what Asomugha made in his first six years. Revis has played three.

Year 1 $3,575,000 (2003)

Year 2 $470,100

Year 3 $560,720

Year 4 $650,280

Year 5 $1,240,760

Year 6 (Opted out of contract and was franchised.  Jets can’t franchise Revis)

Got $9,765,000

Total:  $16,351,860
Now, let’s look at what Revis has made and would be due on the remainder of his contract.

Year 1 $5,319,000 (2007)

Year 2 $2,670,000

Year 3 $6,260,000

Year 4 $1,000,000

Year 5 $5,000,000

Year 6 $15,000,000

Total: $35,249,000

Now, to be sure, the market has changed, and defensive backs have become more highly valued in the past few years. And Revis became one of the top two or three corners faster than Asomugha did. Still, if Revis plays the same 6 years Asomugha did and becomes a free agent, he will have earned more than double what Asomugha did in his first 6 years.

Now, I never want to blame an NFL player for trying to get as much as he can as soon as he can. Plenty of players give their teams a great few years at a relative bargain price then sustain a career-ending injury and are unceremoniously cut without so much as a cheesy gold watch. So I can understand why Revis is trying to get his payday now.

But the whining about how Revis is only going to make a paltry $1 million in 2010 is disingenuous. He made $5.3M in his rookie year and $6.26M last year. That’s a pretty sweet contract for a rookie deal, and Asomugha took the first four years of his career to match what Revis made in his rookie year alone.

That’s how salaries work in the NFL. I’m not sure it’s such a good system, because a player feels underpaid in the year he is making the low amount, as Revis surely does, and it’s human nature that the money he made in the best, far from making him feel better about that, only accentuates how “little” he is getting now. That’s understandable.

And it’s understandable that Revis, knowing that he risks ending his career every time he steps on the field, tries to get as much guaranteed money as he can right now.

But Revis is asking the Jets to give him a new contract that would establish not only a new benchmark in salaries (he is said to be asking for Asomugha’s annual salary over 7-10 years, while Asomugha signed only a 3-year deal, 2/3 of which was guaranteed) but a shift in the way teams do business. Sometimes teams do such things, but it’s hardly penny-pinching of the Jets to be reluctant to sink that much money – and, of more immediate concern to Jets fans, cap space—into a guy whose contract is more than reasonable by NFL standards.

Let’s keep in mind that Revis will make $20M for the last two years of his deal. And then he hits the open market.

The Jets have, I think, shown that they are willing to lock their guys up with respectable contracts with the deals given to Eric Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. They spent a good chunk of change this off-season, while few NFL teams did so. They’re not a cheap franchise, whatever else they might be.

If Revis thinks he can win this battle, more power to him. An NFL player is treated worse than any professional in any other major team sport, by far. Get what you can. But fans should be a little more thoughtful about these situations, since, for better or worse, part of these negotiations get played out in the public arena.

The Jets have reason not to give Revis what he wants. Since we don’t know for certain what the Jets really have offered him, we can’t know for sure if they’re negotiating reasonably. But Revis’ demands are pretty outlandish. He’s asking for Asomugha’s annual salary for twice the length of Asomugha’s contract while having done less than half as Asomugha did to earn it through paying his dues.

I’ll give all due respect to Revis, who is by all accounts a good guy and is certainly an incredible player. But his whining about how the Jets are mistreating or under-appreciating him if he plays out his contract is nonsense. By the standards of NFL salaries and in the context of service time, he is being paid well. It’s too bad the media don’t seem to want to be bothered with facts.


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