When Lovie Smith and Jason Licht took charge of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of the first things they did was to get rid of arguably the best player on the roster in Darrelle Revis. The cornerback had come to town just a year earlier in a blockbuster deal featuring a contract worth $16 million per year, and costing the Bucs a first-round draft pick and a third-round pick. But to save money and turn that third-round pick into a fourth-round pick, the Bucs cut ties with Revis.
Whether the Bucs could have offered Darrelle Revis a cheaper contract or gotten at least something in trade for him wasn't entirely clear, but we have an answer now: they could not have, because Revis wouldn't play ball. That's what Jason La Canfora reports in his story on Revis' path over the past couple of years (h/t Pewter Report).
Revis, as well as his agents, declined to speak about other teams or the specifics of any talks with them, but the list of potential suitors was long. NFL sources said the Raiders and Browns both had deals with Tampa essentially in place for Revis, but those trades were scuttled when it became clear that's not where Revis would be interested in playing. Sources said Jets coach Rex Ryan was consumed with re-acquiring Revis -- a former first-round pick of his and someone who could immediately lift New York's depleted secondary (one that ended up damning their season), but could gain no traction with his appeals to ownership and the front office.
The Bucs didn't need Revis' permission to trade him to another team, but presumably those teams would only trade for Revis if he could amend his contract -- and he clearly was unwilling to do that. Why would he be, if instead he could just wait for the Bucs to cut him and get the best possible deal on the open market? La Canfora also notes Revis wasn't willing to sign a more limited deal with the Bucs.
In retrospect, the Revis deal was one of the worst in recent NFL history. Not only did the Bucs give up premium draft picks and a massive contract, they didn't use that player as the anchor of their scheme and cut him after just a single season. That is cap space they could have spent on quality free agents and draft picks they could have used on some solid young players.
That wouldn't have prevented the Bucs from being awful this year, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt. And it could have given the Bucs perhaps a better basis from which to build a team.