Breaking Down Darrelle Revis' New Contract: Did the Bucs Overpay?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IApril 22, 2013

Sept 11, 2011; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) celebrates his interception during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at the MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Cowboys 27-24.  Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

In agreeing to a six-year, $96 million deal with no guaranteed money, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cornerback Darrelle Revis signed off on a contract that satisfies the needs of both parties.

The Buccaneers, who sent a 2013 first-round pick and 2014 conditional pick to the New York Jets for Revis, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, are now allowed the contract structure and protection they likely coveted in a new deal. 

Revis, a three-time All-Pro who has chased a mega-deal like this one for years, receives the per-year money and title of the game's highest-paid cornerback. And while he doesn't technically have guaranteed money included in the language of the contract, he's going to see $32 million over the first two years without much problem.

The $96 million price tag is still a hefty sum, but this mutually beneficial compromise from the two sides eliminates any idea that the Buccaneers overpaid to acquire Revis. 

Here's how the deal breaks down year by year (via Spotrac):

Year Base Misc. Cap Hit Dead $
2013 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -
2014 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -
2015 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -
2016 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -
2017 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -
2018 $13.0M $3.0M $16.0M -

Let's start by viewing the deal from Tampa Bay's side. In a lot of ways, this is a team friendly agreement.

Remember, while Revis is still considered one of the best—if not the best—cornerbacks in the NFL, he's coming off a season in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and missed 14 games. The Adrian Petersons of the world have taken some of the sting off the injury and its recovery, but ACL reconstruction is still one of the most difficult to come back from in the sport.

By giving no guaranteed money, the Bucs have protected themselves from the scenario in which Revis isn't the same player he was pre-injury.

If the Bucs wanted to cut Revis tomorrow, it would cost them zero in dead money to do so (whereas the Jets are paying $12 million in dead money for Revis to play in Tampa Bay next season). There is no prorated signing bonus to factor in; his entire contract consists of base salaries ($13 million per season) and annual roster bonuses ($1.5 million roster bonus due on third league day and $1.5 million workout bonus).

Let's say Revis plays two years in Tampa Bay but is clearly a different player. If the Bucs decided against paying him $16 million in 2015, they could release him and suffer no salary-cap implications in 2015 or any succeeding year. This is a luxury very few teams have when it comes to big deals with star players. 

Consider the six-year, $120.6 million deal Joe Flacco signed with the Baltimore Ravens

If the Ravens wanted to cut Flacco after the 2014 season, it would cost them $36.4 million in dead money on the 2015 cap, mostly due to signing bonuses and guarantees for injury. The Ravens simply do not have the option of vacating Flacco from the payroll before 2017, at the earliest. 

The Bucs, thanks to zero in-signing bonuses or other guarantees, do not suffer from that same contractual handcuffing. 

While protected year to year, Tampa Bay can also feel confident that the $16 million a year will deter Revis from seriously considering a holdout in the early-to-middle portions of the deal.

In terms of average salary, Revis is currently making over $5 million more than the next highest cornerback contract. He'll be comfortably ahead of the field at the position for the foreseeable future, which leaves leverage on any holdout situation on the Buccaneers' side. The idea of Revis somehow making more money (at least per year) by holding out doesn't add up.

That said, Revis isn't getting off poorly in this deal, either. 

Since 2009, when he broke out as one of the game's truly transcendent defensive talents, Revis has been chasing a market-altering deal like this one. And he's always had his eye on a number around $16 million a year.

Back in '09, Nnamdi Asomugha's agreement with the Oakland Raiders reset the cornerback high-water mark. He agreed to a three-year deal worth $45.5 million, or roughly $15.16 million per season. It also included $28.6 million in guarantees. 

Revis can feel confident his deal will eventually beat Asomugha's once record-breaking contract in Oakland. 

The $16 million per year is the richest contract ever paid to a defensive back, topping Asomugha's deal by over $800,000 a season. 

Considering the Bucs dished out a first-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014 (a fourth now that will become a third if he is on the roster in 2014), Revis is all but assured that he'll see the full $32 million from Tampa Bay over the first two years of the contract.

It would take some drastic turn of events for the Bucs to decide after next season that having Revis on the roster for another season isn't worth $16 million. 

Is that money "guaranteed" in technical terms? No. But it might as well be, and it will beat Asomugha's $28.6 million in guaranteed money. It will also beat the $27.5 million in guarantees the Jets gave Revis in his previous four-year, $46 million deal. 

Revis certainly could have taken less money per year and safeguarded himself with a signing bonus and other guaranteed money. But he's betting on himself to be worth $16 million in at least the first two seasons, which—on its own—is a massive pay raise for Revis. If he makes it through three years, he'll have pocketed a ridiculous $48 million. 

Clearly, this is one of the more unique contracts ever signed by a star player.

No guaranteed money protects the Buccaneers against any regression and essentially makes the deal a year-to-year exercise in weighing risk-reward. No matter the year, handing Revis his release would also have zero impact on the Bucs' salary cap. 

But the scenario in which Revis doesn't make at least $32 million over the first two years appears so unlikely that the money might as well be guaranteed, and the Revis camp has to be happy with the yearly numbers. Their client is now the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history, a title that likely carries significant weight with Revis. 

Rarely are deals this mutually beneficial for player and franchise.

The $96 million is certainly an astronomical amount, but the Bucs are protected. Tampa Bay didn't overpay to acquire Revis, at least contractually. 


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