As bad as Darrelle Revis was last season, he kept insisting he was far from finished. Several times he made it clear he wanted to keep playing and was even willing to see if that could happen with the Jets. He seemed to be embracing his role as a future elder statesman on the team. He hinted he might accept a pay cut to stay. He even admitted he was willing to switch positions.
None of that matters anymore.
Whatever happened on the streets on the South side of Pittsburgh in the wee hours of Sunday morning has made it impossible for the Jets to even consider bringing back the 31-year-old cornerback. The whole truth of the incident may not be known yet, and who knows? Maybe Revis will eventually be exonerated.
But for now there are five charges against him, including four felonies, and an ominous sounding criminal complaint that paints a dark picture of him as the aggressor. There is even a cell phone video that supposedly backs that complaint up, and reportedly could become public at his preliminary hearing next week.
Against that backdrop, the Jets can't possibly pay him his $2 million roster bonus on March 11 or even think about retaining him at even a fraction of the $13 million in 2017 salary he's owed. There's not enough time for the full truth to come out by the time they need to make their decision. The Jets will be blind, not knowing whether the reality of the situation is better or worse than it already seems. There was probably only a slim chance anyway that they'd be willing to bring back the future Hall of Famer whose skills have so badly declined over the last two seasons.
Now there's no chance at all.
Yes, cutting him will be somewhat costly -- although overall they'd clear about $9.3 million in salary cap space by doing it. The Jets owe Revis $6 million (the guaranteed portion of his 2017 salary) whether he's on their roster or not, and that's how much he'll count as "dead money" against the salary cap unless he signs with another team (in which case the Jets can reduce their cap hit by whatever his new team pays him).
There is a clause in his contract that theoretically allows them to try and recoup that guaranteed money, but unless he's convicted of these charges -- and the court fight could take years -- that's a moonshot that would spark a long legal battle from Revis and the NFL Players Association.
It's not a small thing to have to pay Revis -- or any player -- $6 million not to play. But there's no choice. He's just not worth the trouble his presence on the team would bring.
It was hard to imagine it would ever get to this point when he returned to the Jets, fresh off a Super Bowl championship in New England, with a five-year, $70 million contract in 2015. There were some signs back then that Revis wasn't quite the same player, but his decline hadn't been dramatic. That all changed with his return to the Jets. It began with some mild struggles in his first season back, and it's been all downhill ever since.
His trajectory became a terrible spiral in 2016 as he was routinely beaten by even marginal receivers and became a liability in a struggling Jets secondary. He blamed it all on offseason wrist surgery and his odd admission that he showed up to training camp out of shape. He admitted his body was breaking down, even as he defended his indefensible play. He became a punching bag in some corners of the media, too.
The Jets knew the spiral had a chance to just get worse next season, but they were still expected to give at least some thought to bringing him back if he was willing to take a significant pay cut. Several top cornerbacks have made a successful late-career switch to safety in NFL history. Revis made it clear he was at least willing to try.
Instead, he was out late Saturday night and into Sunday morning in Pittsburgh and apparently grew angry when two star-struck young men approached him to see if he really was Darrelle Revis. According to the criminal complaint, the situation quickly deteriorated and ended up with the two men unconscious and Revis no longer on the scene.
No one at the moment is even sure if Revis was the one who hit them. But for the Jets, it likely won't matter. Nor should it. His age, performance, and cost were already conspiring against him. Now he's facing an uncertain future, maybe an NFL suspension, and a potential PR nightmare for his team.
Revis was once a great player for the Jets, but that was a long time ago now. Maybe someday he'll return to be inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor. But for now, he's no longer worth the headaches for them as a player.
There's no choice anymore. It's time to move on.