|The days of paying big money to non-quarterbacks like Elvis Dumervil (left) and Darrelle Revis seem to be over.|
Are we all set with the #WTFax jokes for now? All good?
Great, because if you want to cut deeper into the Elvis Dumervil situation, it plays into a theme that's been reverberating throughout the NFL and its pool of nearly 2,000 players.
Over the past few weeks, we've seen quarterback Joe Flacco's deal with the Baltimore Ravens come in at a record $20.1 million per year while contracts signed or agreed to at every other position represent either a) market stagnation or b) the market being corrected.
Two years ago, coming out of the lockout, 12 non-quarterback free agents signed deals worth $8 million per year or more, not counting franchise-tagged guys who got monster deals later (i.e., Logan Mankins and LaMarr Woodley). Last year, that number shrank to six, with just four non-quarterbacks cracking $10 million per year. This offseason, just offensive tackle Jake Long, safety Dashon Goldson, linebacker Paul Kruger and receivers Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings got more than $8 million per year, and only Wallace exceeded $10 million.
Getting back to Dumervil, should it be any surprise that the Denver Broncos thought $12 million was simply too much to pay for a player who was viewed internally as less-than-complete in 2012?
Of course not.
At the NFL Annual Meeting on Sunday night, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was asked about trading cornerback Darrelle Revis, and he responded like this: "I think you need to look at the entire 53. To build a team, if you don't look at the whole 53, you're not going to make it. It starts with the quarterback. You've got to get your quarterback going, and then you have to work on the 53. Everybody has to add. It's not one player."
The underlying point reveals why the Jets are looking to deal Revis. It's not because they don't think he's a great player, or because they doubt he'll come all the way back from reconstructive knee surgery. It's about a philosophical decision. Should the Jets invest in Revis -- who, with a contract that pays him $11.5 million per year, is already the NFL's highest-paid defensive back -- as if he's the game's best defensive player? That would mean giving him money in the Mario Williams/Julius Peppers range, or close to it -- buzz around the league indicates that Revis is looking for about $14 million per year.
Based on the way things are going league-wide, the Broncos couldn't justify paying Dumervil $12 million per season. Similarly, it seems the Jets are reluctant to saddle themselves with the figures they believe Revis is seeking, especially considering how the market for cornerbacks has sagged.
With that in mind, a look at the 27 players in the NFL making $12 million or more per year can be instructive. There are 12 quarterbacks in that group, according to league and union records, while 15 play other positions (see table).
Wallace is the only player from this year's free-agent group on that list. The overall trends are even more pronounced when the rest of the market is considered.
Last year, cornerbacks Brandon Carr ($10.02 million per year from the Dallas Cowboys), Cortland Finnegan ($10 million per from the St. Louis Rams), Eric Wright ($7.5 million per from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Carlos Rogers ($7.33 million per from the San Francisco 49ers) landed relatively big deals. This year, Cary Williams got a back-loaded deal worth $5.67 million per year from the Philadelphia Eagles, Sean Smith got $5.5 million per year from the Kansas City Chiefs and Derek Cox got $5 million per year from the San Diego Chargers. Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, meanwhile, settled for one-year, $5 million contracts from the New England Patriots and Broncos, respectively.
Last year, a guard with a history of weight issues, Carl Nicks, took home $9.5 million per year from the Bucs. This year, Long, a former All-Pro left tackle (albeit one with an injury history), got just $8.5 million per year from the St. Louis Rams.
Eyebrows have been raised, to be sure. Beyond just that, some are wondering about the futures of the guys on that list.
Arizona Cardinals sources maintain that team's focus is on building around Fitzgerald rather than using him as any sort of chip. Sources in Buffalo and Chicago say that, at least for now, Williams' and Peppers' deals are manageable. Johnson and Peterson are such centerpieces in Detroit and Minnesota that trading them would be unthinkable. But that won't stop other teams from asking.
Maybe -- eventually -- one of the clubs employing one of those well-heeled guys looks at the draft-pick return and added financial flexibility that would come with a trade and decides it's too much to pass up.
That, it seems, is where the Jets currently are.
For now, it's clear that the NFL's math is changing in a very deliberate way. If you're a quarterback, you might not feel the pinch. If you're anyone else, you probably will.
And as Dumervil found out Friday afternoon in a Miami-area print shop, these teams aren't bluffing when they say something's gotta give.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.