The New York Jets have discussed, at least internally, the possibility of trading cornerback Darrelle Revis.
This has left many fans and media members to wonder why the Jets would consider trading away their best player. Revis is one of—if not the—best cornerbacks in the NFL though he’s recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 3 this season.
Additionally, Revis has only one guaranteed year remaining on his contract before he can decline a player option and become a free agent. Revis would become an unrestricted free agent because of a clause in his contract disallowing the Jets from using the franchise tag on him after the 2013 season. Reports have also surfaced about Revis wanting to become the highest paid defensive player in the league.
With a horrendous salary cap situation and coming off a 6-10 season, trading Revis makes more sense than one would think. The main argument against the trade is why the Jets would trade not only their best player, but one of the best in the league if they are trying to contend for a Super Bowl.
There is one problem with that argument: having an elite cornerback is a luxury, not a building block.
If Revis is going to be the player to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl, let’s take a look at how previous elite cornerbacks fared making the big game. Clearly in an increasingly pass happy league the best defense would be a shut down corner, right? Not so fast. In the past ten Super Bowls, the upcoming one included, only three have featured a cornerback who appeared on that season’s Pro Bowl roster.
The most recent Pro Bowl corner to appear in the Super Bowl was Charles Woodson for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Before him, you have to go back to after the 2003 and 2004 seasons when back-to-back Super Bowls had Ty Law and Lito Shepard, respectively.
Breaking that down further, that leaves three of 20 (15 percent) teams to reach the Super Bowl having a Pro Bowl cornerback. Compare that to 10 of those 20 (50 percent) having a Pro Bowl quarterback and 13 of the 20 (65 percent) having at least one offensive lineman on the Pro Bowl roster.
OK, so maybe having Revis isn’t a direct ticket to the Super Bowl, but that can’t replace his production during the regular season, right? Slow down on that one too.
Revis was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2011 according to Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA rankings. The Jets ranked first against an opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver—most of which was the responsibility of Revis. Antonio Cromartie on the other side of the field helped the Jets rank fifth against an opposing team’s No. 2 receiver. The Jets were below league average, 18th, when defending other receivers.
With a Revis injury, losing the most dominant force on the field must have made the pass defense drop off noticeably. That’s not really the case either. This season the Jets ranked fifth, not a significant drop off, against an opponents’ No. 1 receiver as Cromartie moved into that responsibility. The Jets continued to stay above league average, 12th, against a No. 2 receiver and improve from below to slightly above average, 16th, against all other wide receivers.
If Revis was so valuable to the Jets defense, there should’ve been a more noticeable decline in the play on the field without him. Sure it’s nice to be the best against the other team’s best receiver, but most teams wouldn’t mind the alternative of fifth either.
The Jets have more to worry about than whether they will have a shutdown corner playing for them or not. They have to make decisions on whether to bring back tight end Dustin Keller, guard Brandon Moore, along with both 2012 starting safeties.
The addition of Revis back in the lineup won’t do much if the Jets can’t improve at the other skill positions—something a trade of Revis could help.
All of this also assumes we’re talking about the same dominant Revis when he comes back from injury, which isn’t guaranteed. That’d be the biggest deterrent to any team looking to acquire Revis. If Revis doesn’t get traded it will be because a team won’t want to give up anything of value for an injured player looking for a big payday, not because it’s the right personnel move for the Jets to keep him around.
For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta.