When Lovie Smith stood at the podium back in January after being hired as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and talked about his Cover 2 defensive scheme, he attempted to silence those who questioned if cornerback Darrelle Revis could – or would – fit in his scheme.
“There’s a reason why we have Tampa-2 associated to one of our coverages, but I just want you to know, especially [in reference to cornerback] Darrelle Revis, we don’t play Cover-2 every snap,” Smith said. “We have a place for a great cover corner that’s physical and can do all things.
“But there’s a reason why Darrelle Revis is one of the best football players in this game. We’re excited about getting our hands on him and putting him in a position to make plays.”
Now, less than two months later, recent reports suggest that the Buccaneers could be willing to part ways with Revis.
On Tuesday, CBSSports.com Insider Jason La Canfora wrote, “Teams are exploring dealing for Bucs corner Darrelle Revis according to league sources, with some believing there is a good chance he will be dealt by the start of the league year.
During the combine, sources from several teams began reaching out to the Bucs about the possibility they might deal corner Darrelle Revis, and rival executives believe a deal could be possible.
At this stage no one is making offers, and the Bucs haven’t contacted other teams about the Pro Bowl player, and are not shopping him, but talks could certainly progress as we approach the start of the league year next month. Revis makes $16 million this season and counts $16M against the cap (that holds true for every season through 2018), and Tampa has several other tricky contracts to sort through, particularly along the offensive line with an aging and highly paid group, many of whom are nearing the ends of their contracts.”
On one hand, dealing Revis makes some sense on the surface. With a $16 million dollar cap hit the Buccaneers could certainly use that money to sign a couple of high-priced potential veteran free agents to address serious needs, like Vikings defensive end Jared Allen or the Panthers Greg Hardy, and would free up money to work towards re-signing some of their own soon-to-be free agents that include linebackers Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas and even role players such as fullback Erik Lorig. Gerald McCoy is entering the final year of his original rookie contract and the Bucs will most likely attempt to re-sign their best defensive lineman to a new deal before the season starts, and having Revis’ cap money would only help.
The problem with trading Revis is now, all of a sudden, cornerback becomes a pressing need. Regardless of how Revis was used last season, the former Defensive Player of the Year was easily the Buccaneers best defensive back, and while even at less than 100 percent, still recovering from offseason ACL surgery, Revis was a dominant corner who shut down half of the field just by his presence. Revis helped the Buccaneers secondary move from the 32nd ranked pass defense in 2012 to the NFL’s 17th best unit last year.
The next issue is where does his replacement come from? Now it means the Bucs’ No. 7 selection in the upcoming NFL Draft would most likely have to be a cornerback. And while Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is a fine player (currently rated the top CB prospect) there are no guarantees he comes in and plays anywhere near the level that Revis would. Last season’s top cornerbacks Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant struggled in their first year in the NFL, and an argument could be made that Bucs rookie Johnthan Banks was the best performing rookie cornerback last season, and still struggled at times. One member of the previous regime told PewterReport.com last season that other than quarterback, no position has a harder time adjusting to the NFL than a cornerback.
And lastly, drafting a player to replace a player that you surrendered a No. 1 draft pick for, in a sense, means you are now potentially spending two No. 1 picks to fill the position. And again, you are replacing a proven top-flight cornerback with someone you hope can fill the shoes of Revis. In 2013, Revis, even with a knee not fully recovered, still managed to be selected to the Pro Bowl after finishing the season with 50 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and 11 pass breakups.
While his on the field play was stellar, it could be argued his impact inside the defensive back meeting room was just as important. Players like Banks, Danny Gorrer, Dashon Goldson and Leonard Johnson often raved last season about the benefit of having Revis’ leadership around them during the season. Revis, like wide receiver Vincent Jackson, are known as meticulous practice players and film junkies. You can’t just go grab someone like that everyday in free agency or in the draft.
There is no question $16 million is a ton of money and in the grand scheme of things, and pecking order of NFL cornerbacks, it is probably double what the value of a top five cornerback is worth. However, with the salary cap expected to settle somewhere between $132-135 million it means the Buccaneers would still have approximately $18.5 million in available cap space, even before reworking the contracts of some of the offensive linemen that is expected to take place before training camp.
Smith and new general manager Jason Licht have given no indication that they have a desire to part ways with Revis. Maybe the reports were just rumors started by rival general managers or media members looking for a headline. The bottom line is, Darrelle Revis is a benefit to the Buccaneers and trading him for anything less than a king’s ransom makes little sense at this point. In a division with the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, having top cornerbacks is a must. At the very least, while you are in a favorable salary cap situation, see how things play out for one year. Maybe Revis isn’t the best fit for Smith’s defensive scheme, but if he leaves you will never know what kind of impact he might have had.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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