The Buccaneers made a bold move to fix the NFL's worst pass defence Sunday, acquiring star cornerback Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets in exchange for the 13th overall pick in this year's draft and another selection next year.
"We're thrilled. It's rare that you get a chance to add a player of this calibre to your football team. That's what motivated us," general manager Mark Dominik said, adding he would withhold further comment until a Monday news conference at the team's training facility.
The Bucs announced the deal Sunday, saying Revis agreed to a new six-year contract. Revis' agents Neil Schwartz and Jon Feinsod confirmed the deal is worth $96 million, with no guaranteed money, but makes him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL. It includes $1.5 million annually in both roster and workout bonuses.
The Jets also receive a conditional fourth-round pick in next year's draft that will become a third-rounder if Revis, who is coming off a torn ligament in his left knee, is on the Buccaneers' roster on the third day of the 2014 league year.
"I been sitting around for the last hour trying to figure out what to say to the Jet Nation & I came up with this," Revis wrote on Twitter. "The six years I played for the New York Jets were unbelievable. I put my body on the line everyday & did everything could to help the team win. I experienced a lot & & learned a lot. The memories I had in New York I will keep dearly to my heart.
"I want to thank all the jets fans for making me feel welcome."
The trade was completed about two hours after Revis arrived in Tampa by private jet to take a physical for the Bucs, who wanted to check out his surgically repaired knee.
Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano drove his car onto the tarmac to meet the plane, greeted Revis and whisked the cornerback away to One Buccaneer Place. Soon after, the front page of the Buccaneers' official website posted a big picture of Revis in what appears to be a Tampa Bay jersey with the words: "Treasure Island. Darrelle Revis (CB). It's a Bucs Life."
Tampa Bay opens the season at — that's right — the Jets.
Trade talk had been swirling for months involving Revis, with the Bucs thought all along to be the most serious suitor. In addition to having a leaky secondary, Tampa Bay was more than $32 million under the salary cap before landing a player generally regarded as the best cornerback in football.
New Jets general manager John Idzik said during a conference call that New York wasn't proactively shopping Revis, but Tampa Bay made "sincere and sustained" interest. Idzik insisted Revis' desire was to remain a member of the Jets and that the team shared that feeling, but "we ultimately came to the conclusion," Idzik said, "that this was the best thing to do for the Jets at this time."
Idzik added that there were several factors that went into the final decision to trade Revis, who coach Rex Ryan reiterated Sunday is "the best cornerback in football." The main barriers included the Jets and Revis' representatives being far apart on a long-term extension, the time factor with the NFL draft coming up and the "degree of uncertainty" regarding the cornerback's health.
"Fitting a deal of historical proportions into our short-term and long-term plans is very difficult," Idzik said.
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.
Ryan's Jets currently have the ninth overall pick in the draft that starts Thursday, and now the 13th pick, so Idzik will be busy early in the first round.
The trade leaves Antonio Cromartie as the Jets' top cornerback, a role he flourished in last season with Revis sidelined by a knee injury. And 2010 first-rounder Kyle Wilson mostly likely would be stepping in as the other starter.
"We're a football team that has a No. 1 corner," said Ryan, who said he and Idzik have been "joined at the hip" and he was involved in the decision-making process. "We're fortunate to have Antonio Cromartie."
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 improves a secondary that already includes cornerback Eric Wright and safeties Mark Barron and recently signed Dashon Goldson, an All-Pro last season in San Francisco. Tampa Bay finished last in pass defence last season, coming within 38 yards of allowing the most yardage through the air in league history.
The 27-year-old Revis was entering the last season of his four-year contract signed in 2010, but was looking for a big payday that would make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the league. A clause in that deal prevented the Jets from using the franchise or transition tag on him next year, so if he likely would have 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 off-season or deal him for high draft picks, Revis was the subject of rampant trade rumours since last season ended.
"It became quite evident to us that there was a substantial difference between Darrelle's view of his value and ours," Idzik said. "We felt there would have to be a significant change on either side in order to create a path toward reaching an agreeable deal for either side."
Complicating things was 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.
"It definitely muddies the water a little bit," Idzik said.
Revis has been rehabbing since, and has indicated in interviews he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Against his former team.
With Revis' contract status still in limbo, many predicted the two sides would have a repeat of the tough negotiations that marked previous discussions and led to two holdouts and nearly a third last summer. Instead, Idzik made a move with an eye on the franchise's future and not going empty-handed by letting Revis walk as a free agent next off-season.
"We wanted to come up with a decision that was the best for the New York Jets," owner Woody Johnson said. "And that's the decision we arrived at. And I think it was the correct one."
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. in New York contributed to this story.