Eagles should pursue Darrelle Revis

Posted: March 11, 2013

Free agency begins this week, but the top player the Eagles should target won't technically be on the open market when the clock strikes 4 p.m. Tuesday.

But he will be available, and he will make more of a difference than any of the hundreds of free agents looking for jobs in two days.

Darrelle Revis is on the trading block, and the Eagles should do whatever is takes to acquire the New York Jets cornerback. They have the draft picks; the salary-cap space; and, most important, a glaring hole in the secondary that makes dealing for the all-pro a no-brainer.

There's already a rumor brewing in certain NFL circles that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has been crunching the numbers and putting together an offer to bring the 27-year-old Revis to Philadelphia.

Others around the league aren't buying it. Why would Roseman give up a high draft pick, probably another next year, and sink at least $12 million a season into a player who is only six months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee?

And then there's the been-there, screwed-that-up argument after the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha two years ago, a disaster that could ward off any team from acquiring high-priced cornerbacks.

But Revis is not Asomugha. He's two years younger than Asomugha was when the Eagles signed him in July 2011. He's more versatile. And he's much better.

Before his reputation was tarnished in Philly, Asomugha was one of four or five cornerbacks considered to be the best at what he does.

The ranking of cornerbacks is a silly enterprise, as if there is some definitive way to quantify the playing of defense. But in this instance, the folly was in making a case for Asomugha or Charles Woodson or Champ Bailey or Asante Samuel.

There was Revis, and there was everyone else. Two years later, the crown remains his, but the ACL tear and the rise of the Seahawks' Richard Sherman have worn at least a little shine off the coronet.

So Revis has extra motivation as he enters his seventh season - not that the fiercely competitive cornerback needs any. Coming back from the ACL tear will be a test, but he is expected to be healthy by the start of training camp.

There is always the chance that Revis does not return to form, but the risk is worth it for an Eagles team that needs significant help on defense. Asomugha will likely be cut sometime soon. His counterpart at cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is slated to become a free agent and will likely sign elsewhere.

Getting Revis will give coach Chip Kelly a legitimate playmaker and defensive coordinator Bill Davis one less piece he has to worry about as he goes about reconstructing the defense.

Revis can play in any scheme. He can play man-press. He can play zone. He can cover downfield. He can come up and tackle. Davis can assign Revis to an opponent's best receiver and let him do his thing.

If there isn't a receiver worth tailing, Revis can stay at his usual post on the left and clamp down that side of the field. But he isn't married to one side like Samuel. He isn't uncomfortable in the slot like Rodgers-Cromartie.

So what's it going to take for Roseman to pull this off? Lots, but not as much as initial reports indicated. The rebuilding Jets are said to want two draft picks - a first-rounder this year and a high conditional selection next year.

The Eagles have eight draft picks - one in each of the first six rounds and two in the seventh. They're not giving up the fourth overall pick. But their second-round pick - the 35th overall - could be negotiable.

It's a selection that is just as good as a first-rounder since many see the second and third rounds, relatively speaking, as the strengths of the draft. The Eagles could get that second-rounder back by trading out of the fourth pick, where the talent isn't considered as great as in years past.

Provided a trade could be struck, Revis, of course, would want a new deal, as would the Eagles. He is said to want somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million to $16 million a year. He won't get his top asking price with the salary cap staying relatively flat. But $12 million - Asomugha's salary - is attainable.

Roseman won't agree to a contract similar to the one he negotiated with Asomugha, who got $24 million of $60 million guaranteed, with $4 million coming in the third year. The Eagles will have to eat that $4 million after Asomugha's release.

But that will still be a savings of $11 million, giving Roseman $44 million and plenty of cap space to add Revis' salary and front-load the contract so that he won't have to agree to any guaranteed money in the third year.

Revis has held out twice, so he'll likely want a new deal in two years' time anyway - provided he maintains his level of play. The Eagles would want the same. And if he doesn't, although it is unlikely, then it was worth the minor gamble.

Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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