The New York Jets finally traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as many predicted, and so ends a long period of trade speculation involving the 49ers. Granted it was much more vehement early on, but many felt San Francisco’s biggest vulnerability was their secondary and Revis could solve their problem. Initial prognostications had the Jets asking price ridiculously steep, but the 49ers have, like, 150 picks in this week’s NFL draft so why not?
Draft defensive line help and a safety, trade for Revis and BOOM — you’ve won the Super Bowl!
It’s this kind of fanatical thinking that has the Oakland Raiders in rebuilding mode and the Washington Redskins as the butt of every free agency joke made in the last 20 years.
It’s also not the 49ers’ style.
People love to crown World Champions in the offseason (often in slideshow format), and before I go any further let me congratulate the Seattle Seahawks.
Loading up with expensive name value is a method San Francisco is wary of and avoids completely. It had fans pulling their hair out at the time, but it’s also why Baalke passed on Nnamdi Asomugha for Carlos Rogers and said “no thanks” to Olin Kreutz in favor of Jonathan Goodwin in 2011. The general manager has thrift shopped better than anyone in the business (Baalkemore, Greg Papa’s next nickname), so it’s no wonder he passed on Revis this year.
The draft pick cost wasn’t nearly as high as people thought — a 2013 first-rounder and a 2014 conditional third or fourth-rounder (LOLJets) — so lots of people are ready to string up Baalke and claim he fumbled. In reality, it wasn’t the draft pick cost deterring Baalke from trading for Revis in the end. It was the price tag dangling off of his contract extension; a price tag the 49ers never would have been able to pay.
Six years, 96 million dollars.
But none of it is guaranteed! Not a single penny! Low risk! YOU BLEW IT, BAALKE!
There are an awful lot of people reading “no guaranteed money” as “he’s playing for free.” The deal averages out to $16M a year, pay as you go. Assuming Revis stays healthy (and any team trading for him is), all $16M for a year’s services rendered will count against the Buccaneers’ cap. But Tampa Bay has a lot of cap space: $33.3M according to the NFLPA website. They can afford to do it.
In effect, Revis becomes the highest paid defensive back in NFL history, and had the 49ers been on the receiving end of the trade he would have been the highest paid player on the roster by a long shot. San Francisco’s most significant cap hit in 2013 is Vernon Davis at $8.73M — Revis would have been earning almost double that.
Revis said he felt comfortable with the “no guaranteed money” aspect of the contract because of the draft pick commitment Tampa Bay made. In essence, by trading away a 2014 pick to the Jets, this six-year deal contains a two-year commitment to Revis (translation: two years of guaranteed salary). He also hinted “there may be more than meets the eye on the contract,” which always seems to be the case in the NFL these days.
The deal simply wouldn’t have panned out for San Francisco, guaranteed money or not. Coming into Thursday’s draft, the 49ers’ cap space sits at roughly $884K (in other words, $32.4M less than Tampa Bay).
But they could have restructured and cut players to make room for him!
I’m not sure where. The 49ers top-five earners in 2013 include Frank Gore (nearly 30 and unlikely to be extended), Justin Smith (also aging with a contract expiring at the close of 2013), Carlos Rogers (to whom the 49ers have already made a financial commitment) and Anquan Boldin (who they just traded for and may restructure, but doing so wouldn’t have opened up enough money to buy a trip to Revis Island).
The next alternative would have been ransacking the bottom half of the roster and depleting depth, all to trade for one player coming off of a season-ending ACL injury.
Did the 49ers flirt with the idea of trading for Revis? People said they were, but it was a prospect as financially feasible as signing Peyton Manning was last season. San Francisco’s roster is stocked with talent, and as a result they’re constantly pushing up against the salary cap. The draft pick cost may have dropped considerably from when the bidding for Revis started, but it was the contract — guaranteed or not — that closed the door on Revis as a 49er.