Why Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets is a Champion of Virtue

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First, some nuts and bolts:

Darrelle Revis is a cornerback for the New York Jets. But not just any cornerback. Revis is, by most standards, the best cornerback in the NFL. He guards the opposing team’s best receivers and, more often than not, shuts them down. He’s the best at what he does.

Revis, 25, is currently holding out on his contract, meaning that he is not participating in training camp until the New York Jets give him more money. He is currently getting paid about $5 million a year, which is a very large amount and more than you or I can realistically hope to ever get paid. If the Jets do not give him a new contract, he is threatening to sit out the season.

Second, none of this will have anything to do with the LSAT, and I will be making no attempt to even provide a tangential relation aside from mentioning the LSAT for a second time in this sentence.

A coworker and I were recently arguing about the Revis situation. His point is that, regardless of any extenuating circumstances, Revis signed a contract and should be held accountable for the terms of the contract which he signed (i.e. getting his ass on the field). And that if Revis doesn’t fulfill the terms of the contract, the ownership of the Jets can and should sue him. It’s a fair point; a contract is a contract, and if Revis thought it was unfair at the beginning of the contract, he should have not signed it, right?

My issue, of course, is that it’s the damn NFL. Paying a star cornerback is not like paying a plumber. Revis is the best player at his position in the NFL, and if he isn’t on the field and isn’t getting paid, it arguably hurts the Jets more than it hurts Revis. Revis has the leverage in this situation and will not be sued.

Should he be sued? I say no. If an NFL team sues a player for holding out, then I would almost guarantee some kind of player strike within a year. The NFL contract system is heavily weighted toward the owners. Contracts are not guaranteed on the owner’s end, so if player A gets injured, player A can get a firm, but loving, kick in the ass, no matter how many years he has left on his contract.

Should he be paid more money? I say yes. In the NFL, you’re really about a play away from a coma. As guys get more and more juiced, and become as fast and strong as modern chemistry allows, it becomes a much more unsafe environment. Revis could be snapped in half this season. His contract was signed when the Jets did not know how good he was going to be. He’s now the best in the league at what he does, and is getting paid like he’s mediocre. Because of the odd circumstance that is the NFL, in that severe injury is highly possible and could prevent you from fulfilling your contract, restructuring should be a natural custom when talent outperforms, by a wide margin, the terms of the contract.

Who has thoughts on this? I don’t see any easy solution to the larger issue (which is the fact that people get injured often in the NFL). Owners don’t want to guarantee money to people who might be crippled in a few years, which I understand. Players don’t want to play for less than their market worth because they might be crippled in a few years, which I also understand. What do you do? One year contracts and constant negotiation? That kills team continuity and would basically lead to much more unwatchable play. Chime in if you have a point.

Anyway, prediction: Revis will be back by week 3, with a new, $12 million a year contract. Book it.

10 Responses

  1. Riley says:

    I already have money riding on him playing in Week 1. It is better for both sides. And even with him, the Jets are going to flop big time this year.

  2. blake says:

    contracts are just that: contracts. and the language in them is, well, contractual. if you sign the dotted line agreeing to get x million dollars for x number of years, then by no means does the other party have ANY obligation to renegotiate until the term of that contract has expired. what’s more, if the jets choose not to negotiate (as they are), revis sitting out for no reason other than the denial to negotiate (as he is) is a blatant breach of that contract. saying it’s the nfl holds no water whatsoever – if anything, players should be held to the strictest standards given that their coworkers are shooting themselves in the legs with concealed weapons and running dogfighting rings that do nothing more than surround the league in infamy. revis’ holdout is clearly a byproduct of asomugha getting more than $15 mil a year from the raiders, but the difference is that his contract expired and was renegotiated at an opportune time. to tie the lsat loop back into this column, here’s an analogy that should clear up the absurdity of defending players who hold out: if you retain a lawyer for $250/hr and your case gets halfway through and it looks like you’re going to win, it is ILLEGAL for the lawyer to insist on renegotiating for a higher hourly rate – the fee agreement (contract) signed when the lawyer was retained stands for the entirety of the case (the contract’s length). what is illegal for one profession should not be condoned for another, especially when revis’ $5 million/year is more than enough for him to enjoy the good life.

  3. Dave says:

    Blake,

    The owners are under no obligation to negotiate, yet they do. In fact, the Jets are negotiating, according to most reports, but Revis isn’t caving on his demands. I certainly didn’t argue that it was not a breach of contract.

    At any rate, you’re not acknowledging the differences between lawyers and NFL players. NFL players are singular talents; lawyers are not. If an NFL player feels he is underpaid and, as the Asomugha signing would indicate, he is underpaid, then he can grab his team by the balls strictly because he is irreplaceable.

    Your analogy isn’t quite apt anyway. It’s more like a lawyer signing on with a firm for five years, working his ass off for three years, demonstrating that he is one of maybe the top 10 lawyers in the world, and then demanding a certain amount of money equal to what the best in the business get paid or else he’s not coming back in January of the fourth year. All while dodging large steroid-ridden dudes who want to end his career. Revis isn’t walking off the field in the middle of the game; he’s asking for his market value before the season starts.

    Revis could easily, easily have a career ending injury this year that prevents him from playing anymore. He could then be facing a lifetime worth of medical costs. Too many NFL players end up broke and with serious medical issues.

    There’s a reason something like 25% of players hold out for a portion of every season. You don’t see this in baseball or in basketball. The threat of injury is too great to screw around playing for something less than your market value.

    Anyway, appreciate the response.

    -Dave

  4. Misha says:

    yup and now that ALS is always right around the corner http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/17/news/la-heb-brain-trauma-20100817 I would be holding out for more money too.

    I’m thinking the Jets are certainly willing to re-negotiate; from what I’ve heard on Hard Knocks it’s the sum that’s the problem. I’m curious how much Revis wants.

  5. Dave says:

    Misha,

    The word is he wants 10 years/162 million, which is probably not going to happen, at least in contract length. I imagine something like 12 to 14 a year for 7 years happens, with some huge signing bonus.

    -Dave

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  9. JT says:

    His contract came in over the weekend and it’s a four-year, $46 million contract. Here’s a breakdown:
    2010: $7.5 million in base salary. No signing bonus.
    2011: $18 million option bonus (first day of league year), $7.0 million base.
    2012: $7.5 million base.
    2013: $6.0 million base.

    So it appears that skills/desirability trumps contract obligations in the NFL.

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