NEW YORK — Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets appear on the verge of parting ways.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday that the Jets granted Revis permission to take a physical and negotiate a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signaling a trade is imminent.
Revis left New Jersey on Sunday morning to fly to Tampa, the source told the AP on condition of anonymity because the teams have not spoken publicly about the potential deal. Revis, recovering from a torn knee ligament, is expected to take a physical after he arrives at the Buccaneers’ facility.
Trade rumors have been swirling for months involving Revis, with the Buccaneers thought all along to be the most serious potential suitor. New Jets general manager John Idzik is expected to want several high draft picks in any deal for Revis.
Coach Rex Ryan’s Jets currently have the ninth overall pick in the draft that starts Thursday, while the Buccaneers have the No. 13 pick – a selection that could potentially be included for Revis.
It was not clear if the sides have already agreed to compensation for a trade, but the fact the Jets have allowed Revis to meet with the Buccaneers means they could have the framework of a deal in place. A trade would leave Antonio Cromartie as the team’s top cornerback, a role he flourished in last season in Revis’ place, with 2010 first-rounder Kyle Wilson stepping in as the other starter.
The Jets could also target a cornerback – perhaps Alabama’s Dee Milliner or Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes – in the first round.
For the Bucs, adding Revis would improve a secondary that already includes cornerback Eric Wright and safeties Mark Barron and recently signed Dashon Goldson but finished last in pass defense last season.
The 27-year-old Revis is entering the last season of his four-year contract signed in 2010, but is looking for a big payday that would make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the league. A clause in that deal prevents the Jets from using the franchise or transition tag on him next year, so if he remains unsigned, he would become a free agent in 2014.
As the Jets weighed whether to try to sign him to a contract extension, lose him to free agency next offseason or deal him for high draft picks, Revis has been the subject of rampant trade rumors since last season ended.
Complicating things has been the fact Revis is coming off a serious injury. Revis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last September against Miami, and underwent surgery the next month. He has been rehabbing since, and has indicated in interviews that he fully expects to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Revis reported Monday for the first day of the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program, a few hours after having an MRI exam with Dr. Russell Warren, the Giants’ team orthopedist, at a hospital in Manhattan. The exam results were positive, and ESPN New York reported that Revis was cleared by Warren to begin running without restrictions.
Revis and Idzik also met and had what the general manager called “a nice talk.”
Revis had been rehabilitating in Arizona, and would have preferred to return there, but was staying in New Jersey because his contract includes a clause for three $1 million bonuses that are tied together, including a workout bonus.
In an interesting twist, if a trade is made, Revis and the Jets would see each other again in Week 1 of the regular season as New York hosts Tampa Bay.
It would also be the first significant trade pulled off by Idzik, who is reshaping New York’s roster after a 6-10 season – and this move likely wouldn’t sit well with many of the team’s fans.
Revis was New York’s first-round pick in 2007 after then-GM Mike Tannenbaum traded up to No. 14 to draft the former University of Pittsburgh star. Revis quickly established a reputation on the field as a shutdown cornerback, routinely holding wide receivers to quiet games and causing quarterbacks to shy away from his side of the field. He was considered by many to be so dominant at his position that he earned the nickname “Revis Island” for leaving opposing wide receivers “stranded.”
Now, Ryan might have to go into this season without one of the players he has called one of the best he has ever coached.
“When the first trade thing came up, I connected it to someone that clearly made it up; there was no factual basis,” Ryan said at the NFL meetings in Phoenix in March. “On the first day John Idzik is named general manager and he doesn’t even know where his office is, we’re trying to trade Darrelle? This is all speculation like it’s a foregone conclusion. I don’t believe it.
“With that, I am not naive enough to understand several people would be interest in a player like Darrelle Revis.”
And, the Buccaneers’ offer might ultimately be too good to pass up for the Jets. Even if it means saying goodbye to a player who had already been considered by many to be one of the greatest players in franchise history.
“We coach the guys that we have,” new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said recently. “I was always taught not to get over emotional about losing a guy. In terms of Darrelle Revis (being placed on injured reserve) last year, we had to move on and we had to continue to play. They’re not going to cancel games, so our mind-set is we coach who’s here.”
The Jets hoped Revis would always be here, though. After making $32.5 million in the first two years of the front-loaded deal, Revis made $7.5 million last season – far below his market value.
He considered holding out for the third time in his career before training camp last summer, but then decided to report with the rest of his teammates and play out the season. But then came the first serious injury of Revis’ career, the torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 3 that ended his season – and likely his tenure with the Jets.