Darrelle Revis is the owner of one of the swiftest falls from grace in recent memory. Revis’ most recent Pro Bowl selection - the seventh of his career - came in 2015, and he was elected to the All-Pro team the year before that. In 2016, however, Revis was a shell of his former self. He arrived at training camp “out of shape,” per his own admission, and struggled with injuries throughout the regular season.
In Week 2 of that season, Revis, a man who was once likened to an island for his shutdown abilities, was toasted by Bills speedster Marquise Goodwin for an 84-yard touchdown during a nationally-televised game. The Jets ultimately defeated Buffalo in that game, but one thing became clear: this was not the same Darrelle Revis who routinely negated the impact of some of the league’s best receivers.
Revis’ performance, coupled with the Jets’ desire to rebuild their program, led to his release earlier this month. Now Revis, a one-in-a-generation talent with a legitimate Hall of Fame credentials, cannot find work.
Revis is a product of Aliquippa, Pa., a nationally-renowned football factory that has produced numerous Pro Bowlers, and he played collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, which shares its home stadium with the Pittsburgh Steelers. What a story it would be for Revis to return to the city where he cultivated his legendary talent.
A Revis-Steelers marriage seems unlikely for now, but it is a move that makes sense.
This is why:
Signing Revis fills a position of need
The Steelers currently have four cornerbacks who possess NFL experience on the roster: Artie Burns, William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Al-Hajj Shabazz. Burns and Cockrell should be locks to retain their starting positions in 2017—provided, of course, that another team does not sign Cockrell, a restricted free agent, to a deal that Pittsburgh cannot match or chooses not to match.
Shabazz has played mostly special teams so far in his career, and it would be difficult to argue that Gay performed much better than Revis did in 2016. At best, Gay’s season was only marginally superior.
Behind these four players, the Steelers have a cohort of dudes who have played a combined zero snaps, including former second-round pick Senquez Golson, who is entering his third professional season and still technically a rookie. Maybe Golson does step into Gay’s role and becomes the best slot cornerback in NFL history (for what it’s worth, though, Golson spent almost the entirety of his career at Ole Miss playing on the outside). Maybe he doesn’t. Regardless, the Steelers need depth.
This is where Revis comes in. The Steelers are clearly interested in hiring an extra pair of hands, as evidenced by their reported interest in Dre Kirkpatrick and Devon House. At this point, Revis is one of the best, if not the best, cornerbacks left in free agency. Yeah, being the best player in a group that includes Antwon Blake and B.W. Webb isn’t the most sterling distinction in the world, but it pays the bills. Which brings us to my next point:
Signing Revis will (probably) be relatively inexpensive
As part of the terms of Revis’ release, the Jets agreed to pay him $6 million. Severance pay, essentially.
This presents a major hurdle for anyone who may be interested in signing Revis. To put it plainly, Revis will take home at least $6 million this year, even if he decides to pursue a career as a professional Madden player: the only catch is that he “forfeits” his Jets money if another team ponies up more than $6 million, which, given Revis’ struggles in 2016, seems extraordinarily unlikely. The question then becomes this: would Revis, a career mercenary, accept a low-level salary, perhaps even the veteran minimum, to endure the rigors of professional football when he could earn just as much money by sitting at home in his underwear?
Fortunately, Revis told reporters Monday that he wants to play football in 2017. Three seconds of rhetoric won’t outweigh 10 years of actions, so it is certainly fair to be skeptical about Revis’ true desires. If he is serious, though, then I would argue that it doesn’t make sense not to at least call him in for a meeting.
Signing Revis to the veteran minimum would be ideal, but if he is willing to sign a one-year deal, the figure on the contract is irrelevant.
In the end, the Steelers have nothing to lose
If you are still concerned about signing Revis, I ask you this: can he be any worse than Brandon Boykin? What about Justin Gilbert?
In those cases, the Steelers had to part ways with draft capital to acquire those failed experiments. If Revis signs a one-year deal for, say, $5 million, then he is off the payroll by this time next season. If he sucks and gives up 10 touchdowns in two weeks, bench him, admit failure, and wait patiently until spring to try again. If 32-year-old Revis somehow finds his legs and plays like 26-year-old Revis, the Steelers get a high-level, one-year rental player to fuel a postseason run. In fact, if Revis plays well enough to somehow command interest next offseason, Pittsburgh could potentially land a compensatory pick.
Obviously, there are many reasons why Revis to the Steelers wouldn’t work, the most notable of which is the fact that Pittsburgh could be among the teams that think his career is over. But then again, Revis is a former Defensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl Champion and will go down as one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history, even if he never plays another down. Someone should at least kick the tires on this dude. Might as well be Pittsburgh.