- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Strip away the outer layers of the Darrelle Revis contract dispute, the posturing from both sides and the complicated rules of the NFL's uncapped year, and the core matter is this:
The New York Jets believe Revis is the best cornerback in the league, but they don't want to pay him the most.
Owner Woody Johnson acknowledged as much Monday, telling reporters "the main issue ... is total compensation." He said the two sides are "so far apart" that they haven't begun serious negotiations on other particulars such as guaranteed money and length of contract.
Nevertheless, the Jets made two proposals last week, including a long-term offer that surpassed $100 million in maximum value, ESPNNewYork.com confirmed. How much of that was fully guaranteed isn't known; that is a huge piece to the puzzle.
The other offer was a so-called "Band-Aid" contract, a short-term fix that included less than $5.3 million for 2010, sources said -- the amount left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson will receive this year as part of his recent extension.
Revis, due to make $1 million in the fourth year of a six-year deal, flatly rejected both proposals, cementing his decision to become a holdout.
Revis wants to become the highest-paid cornerback in the league, a distinction that belongs to the Oakland Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha ($15.1 million per year). The Jets believe Asomugha's contract is an aberration, out of line with the cornerback market.
Result: No Revis.
A few hours after the Jets conducted their first practice without their All Pro, who is being fined about $16,000 a day, Johnson claimed he's not being restricted by cash-flow issues. That has become a hot issue because neither offer included a significant signing bonus, sources said.
"This is my 11th year and we've never had the inability to sign whoever we want to," Johnson said. "We can sign the players we want to, but we have to do it in the context of what's best for the organization."
Johnson told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio Monday the team will reach out to Revis' agents within the next day or so to reopen the lines of communication and attempt to bridge the gap between the two sides, but the owner didn't seem confident it could structure a deal that would make him the highest-paid cornerback. Johnson said Revis would have to compromise, claiming the team won't discuss other issues such as guarantees until they get in the same ballpark on total compensation.
"When we get to a point where the two sides are closer together, we can get something done," said Johnson, adding that he's "optimistic."
"I'm going to do whatever I can do get a deal done," Johnson said.
According to the Revis camp, the main issue is the signing bonus. Because it's an uncapped year, the Jets could satisfy Revis by writing a huge check. But they're reluctant to pull the trigger, in part, because of the uncertain labor landscape, although Johnson claimed "we can negotiate in good faith" amid the current labor climate.
Johnson seemed surprised that Revis rejected the last two offers.
"Am I disappointed? Yes," Johnson said. "I'd like everything to be clear sailing to the Super Bowl, we win that and -- boom, boom -- we're done. But part of running a franchise is dealing with disappointment."
Hoping to plug the hole in his top-ranked defense, coach Rex Ryan tweaked his lineup. He moved Antonio Cromartie to left cornerback, Revis' spot -- perhaps an indication the team is expecting a long holdout. On Sunday, Revis' New York-based agent, Neil Schwartz, told ESPNNewYork.com that his client won't report until he gets a new deal.
"I got comfortable with it today," said Cromartie, who was acquired from San Diego during the offseason. "It only takes about a day or two to get used to it."
Cromartie is looking forward to teaming with Revis -- at some point.
"All I can say is best of luck to all the receivers we face," he said. "We're really going to be the best tandem in NFL history, hands down, that's our goal."
"We'll adjust as we go along," Lowery said. "I mean, only Darrelle can answer when he's going to be here. If he's not, we've just got to do what we need to do until he comes. It's not like he's going to be out all 17 weeks of the season."
Ryan didn't criticize Revis' stance; just the opposite, actually.
"If he signs a contract one day before the first game," Ryan said, "he'll be in the starting lineup."
But Ryan has to get the team ready with or without Revis.
"We've got to get who we have ready to go," Ryan said. "If Darrelle's not here, then we're going to move on. We won't make excuses. ... We think we'll have a great defense anyway, and I know we will. It's just a lot easier if Revis is out there."
League insiders believe Johnson's reluctance to shell out a big bonus is holding up the deal, but Johnson passed the buck to general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
"If Mike came to me today and said, 'I've got a deal that's good for the New York Jets and good for Revis,' we would do it," said Johnson, adding that he trusts Tannenbaum's judgment.
This has the makings of a long holdout. If Revis doesn't report by Aug. 10, the 2010 season won't count as an accrued year for him.
Revis' absence wasn't what Ryan blamed for a practice missing energy.
"I was expecting sparks to fly a little bit," said Ryan, who wore Converse sneakers to practice as part of a yearly tradition for him.
He mentioned a distinct lack of communication between the defensive backs and linebackers.
"We had a lot of free runners in the back end which is never a good sign," Ryan said.
He also revealed that team doctors advised LaDainian Tomlinson to miss the conditioning test due to a hamstring injury, but the running back wouldn't have it.
"He made it," Ryan said. "He's in great shape. He looks super."
Ryan said Jason Taylor's shoulder isn't bothering him.
Ryan saw some good things at the first practice. He started his press conference by congratulating himself on picking backup fullback John Conner in this year's draft. The Kentucky product knocked the wind out of three linebackers his first practice, which made Ryan smile.
Ryan admitted that having the veteran Mark Brunell to mentor Mark Sanchez was a good move. He said he resisted the idea last season with Matt Cavanaugh on staff and reluctantly said he might not have had all the answers his first year as a head coach.
"He's got a command of this offense like he never had last year, even in the playoffs," Ryan said. "All that is, and you've got to tip your cap to him, the work ethic that he showed in the offseason and rehabbing himself."
Like last season, Ryan knows that the brash talk might get him in trouble if the team doesn't back it up during the regular season. That's a risk he'll take.
"Trust me I've been wrong a bunch, but I know one thing, we expect to win here," Ryan said.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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