How Darrelle Revis turned a contract with $0 in guaranteed money into $68 million

Darrelle Revis left the New England Patriots and signed a five-year contract with $US39 million guaranteed with the New York Jets late Tuesday night.

It’s a monster deal. He’ll be the seventh highest paid player in the NFL in 2015.

The contract is the culmination of a 24-month span where Revis signed for three different teams, agreed to three different contracts, and finally played himself into the long-term deal he always wanted.

Revis never settled for less than he believed he was worth, and in the end it paid off. Since leaving the Jets in 2013, Revis has secured $US68 million in guaranteed salary. And it all started with a completely unguaranteed deal.

In 2013, Revis signed a five-year contract with $US0 in guaranteed money after getting traded from the Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The deal paid him $US16 million per year on paper, but the Bucs could cut him at any time and not owe him another penny.

At the time, Revis was coming off a serious knee injury. He could have pushed for guaranteed money, but because of his injury history he would had to accept a lower base salary than what he thought he was worth when fully healthy. So instead he took what he thought he was worth when fully healthy ($US16 million) but risked financial security by making it unguaranteed. It was a bet on himself.

Revis’ first year in Tampa was a disaster. He played in a system that didn’t suit his strengths, he was coming off an injury, and the Bucs were awful.

A year later, Tampa cut him after he refused to renegotiate his contract so his base salary would be smaller. But rather than settling for a long-term deal with low base salaries and significant guaranteed money, Revis agreed to an unusual deal with the New England Patriots before the 2014 season.

It was basically a one-year audition contract. The deal was designed so Revis could put himself into a position to sign a monster deal in 2015 if he proved himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2014. The Patriots paid him $US12 million in 2014 — which was still the highest salary for cornerback at the time. While the deal came with a team option for 2015, no one ever believed the Patriots would exercise it because it was worth an insane $US20 million.

Revis nailed that audition. He won the Super Bowl, played all 16 games, and regained his status as an elite cornerback.

When the Patriots declined his 2015 option, the Jets came running with the big, long-term, guarantee-heavy contract they were reluctant to give him when he was coming off of knee surgery in 2013.

The deal pays him $US39 million guaranteed, all of it in the first three years of the deal, ESPN reports. He’ll make $US16 million in 2015, $US17 million in 2016, and $US17 million in 2017 ($US6 million of which is guaranteed).

In 2013, Revis signed a five-year deal with $US0 guaranteed. He has since secured $US68 million for himself. Here is his past and future guaranteed salary by year:

  • 2013 — $US17 million ($US16 million from Tampa Bay, $US1 million from New York Jets)
  • 2014 — $US12 million (New England)
  • 2015 — $US16 million (New York Jets)
  • 2016 — $US17 million (New York Jets)
  • 2017 — $US6 million (New York Jets)
  • Total — $US68 million

You couldn’t have criticised Revis if at any point along the way he took less than what he thought he was worth in exchange for guaranteed money. But he waited it out, trusted his skills, and ultimately played himself into the leverage he needed to sign a huge deal.

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