Things were going the Jets' way. They had a Cinderella run to the AFC championship game last season and pulled off a couple of impressive moves this offseason in acquiring CB Antonio Cromartie and WR Santonio Holmes.
They were suddenly loaded with talent, and one of the favorites to win Super Bowl XLV.
Then came the punch to the gut.
Some of the team's more valuable players — most notably All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis — decided it was time for a raise, and GM Mike Tannenbaum was told to fork over the loot, even though, in Revis' case, he had three years remaining on his contract.
Revis, who is due a $1 million base salary this season, has threatened to hold out of training camp and actually sat out a portion of a minicamp practice to express his displeasure with the negotiations. His behavior frustrated head coach Rex Ryan before the two sat down and made amends.
Ryan and Revis pretended that everything was just fine after talking things over, but it's not.
Revis still wants more than the $15 million per season the Raiders are paying CB Nnamdi Asomugha, and Tannenbaum — who said, "Our expectation is (Revis will) retire a Jet many years from now," in May — appears to be playing hardball with the fourth-year veteran.
He reportedly insulted Revis with his first contract offer, and there was a leak, which some linked to the Jets' front office, that the team was prepared to offer Revis a long-term deal worth nearly $100 million. The problem for Revis was that the report didn't specify how much of the $100 million would be guaranteed.
He was still unimpressed.
It's not hard to see merit in each side of the argument. Revis has performed at a high level and believes he deserves to be rewarded. The Jets have done nothing but fawn over him, so it's understandable that he has developed certain expectations about money.
Then again, he also has three years left on his contract, and the Jets wouldn't be in the wrong to tell him, with a potential lockout looming in 2011, no one will be getting new deals until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed upon.
What doesn't seem to make any sense is the way Tannenbaum has handled the situation thus far. He has made one of the best defensive players in the league angry and allowed the dispute to dominate the coverage of his team.
Hard knocks, indeed.
Tannenbaum has two choices. He could jeopardize his team's chances of keeping Revis with the Jets for the duration of the player's career by refusing to cave to Revis' demands. Or, he could make Revis the highest-paid corner in the league with uncertainty about how, or if, the league will operate when the 2011 season begins. Either way, he risks further alienating three other key players — C Nick Mangold, OLT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and ILB David Harris — who are also awaiting extensions.
It's not an easy decision, but one that Tannenbaum ought to make rather than employing the tactics that have led him to this point.
Tannenbaum did a fine job assembling this nucleus. It might be a more difficult task to keep it intact for many years.
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