Revis' holdout has Jets leaning on holdovers
Darrelle Revis' holdout has given the Jets' returning cornerbacks an added opportunity to prove their worth, writes William Bendetson.
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The New York Jets were lined up in their red-zone drill late Wednesday morning when quarterback Chad Pennington threw a pass into the end zone that was batted down by Jets defensive back Drew Coleman. The official, however, threw a flag and Coleman was called for pass interference.
"Come on, you call that interference?" Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis screamed at the official.
It is a question that fans often ask: What does an NFL player do when he holds out? Last year at this time Deion Branch was in the middle of a contentious holdout with the Patriots.
"It is something that is very difficult," said Branch, who was traded to the Seahawks last September. "There are times that I thought about returning to the Patriots because it is just difficult to stay away from the guys for a long period of time. The biggest thing is that you have to really believe in what you are doing because a lot of people are going to doubt your motives. My agent and the team were talking daily, but I only wanted to hear from him if there was significant progress."
Branch noted there is a big difference between working out on your own and being with the team.
"I would work out every day, but it is hard to work out because you know that your contract could get worked out at any minute so you don't want to work too hard or become too easy on yourself," Branch said. "It is completely different when you are in camp with the guys because that is where you can get your timing down with your QB and it is also a chance when you get used to being hit."
Asked about Revis, Branch said, "It is important for any rookie to be in training camp, but every situation is different and I would not advise any player on what to do. "
Branch signed a five-year contract with the Patriots as a rookie in 2002, but his preference was a four-year contract. Like the Revis situation, the Patriots wanted the extra year.
On Wednesday, Andre Dyson and David Barrett lined up as the Jets' starting cornerbacks. Dyson, the Jets' best cornerback, finished with 62 tackles and four interceptions in 2006. Barrett had three interceptions and 36 tackles in only 13 games. Barrett was plagued by a sports hernia last season for which he underwent surgery in the offseason.
One of the reasons the Jets traded up 11 spots to select Revis is because they were forced to start journeyman Hank Poteat at cornerback toward the end of last season because of injuries. Cornerback Justin Miller was also a big disappointment in 2006. Miller and Barrett, though, have impressed Jets coaches in the first two weeks of camp. The addition of Revis, however, would not only improve the Jets' defense, but give them an added boost on special teams, because Revis was one of the nation's best kick returners in college.
"All the rookies are trying to find a role," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "It is hard to find a role if you are not here. We are focused on the guys that are here. When Darrelle shows up, we will put him in the mix with the rest of guys, but he will have a long way to go. Training camp is a very important and difficult time for rookies as it lays the groundwork for the season."
For that groundwork to be laid down, the Jets and Neil Schwartz, Revis' agent, will need to agree on the length of Revis' contract. New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum wants Revis, 21, to sign a six-year contract while the Revis camp wants only a five-year deal. Tannenbaum declined to comment Wednesday on the status of contract negotiations.
The main sticking point is that players drafted early in the first round often receive six-year contracts. Players selected in the middle of the first round and below generally receive five-year contracts.
This season, the market for rookie contracts has shifted in the direction of five years. Only half the players drafted in the top 10 received six-year contracts (Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Gaines Adams, Levi Brown and Amobi Okoye), and the lowest-drafted player to receive a six-year deal was Okoye at No. 10. All the players drafted in Revis' area received five-year contracts.
"That is probably part of the problem because at 14 he falls in that gray area," said Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Deion Branch, who held out from Patriots training camp last season partially because of a dispute over the length of his rookie contract.
The big difference between five and six years is that it indicates the ability of an organization to tie up a player and how long an agent has to renegotiate a player's contract if he outperforms his salary.
"[Schwartz] is an incredibly fair person, but he is not going to give in on what are the best interests of his player," said Jets offensive lineman Pete Kendall, who is also represented by Schwartz.
Revis' teammates in the defensive backfield insist, like their head coach, that they have enough to focus on and are not worried about Revis.
"I can't really speak on how far behind he will be when he returns, but when he gets here, I think he will be a tremendous asset," Coleman said.
Added Jets safety Kerry Rhodes: "We have not seem him out here yet. We know from minicamp that he is a good guy. A rookie needs to come out and not be vocal while trying to learn as much as he can from the veterans. The reason people think we need him to be a starter is because we got him in the first round. You can talk a good game, but you need to come out and perform. We have not seen Darrelle do too much of that yet."
William Bendetson covers football for ESPN.com.
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