With the news that Alterraun Verner was benched for his quality of play, as Lovie Smith noted yesterday, the 2013 Darrelle Revis trade somehow manages to get worse and worse and wore for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When the Bucs traded for Darrelle Revis in 2013, there was always a chance it would backfire. You don't give up a first-round pick, a third-round pick and $16 million per year for a player coming off a torn ACL and not expose yourself to some risk, no matter how good that players is. But it's impressive how quickly that trade spiraled out of control.
That started in 2013 when Greg Schiano refused to use Darrelle Revis in a way that actually took advantage of his unique skills. You know, ostensibly the reason the Bucs gave up so much to get him. That led to a 4-12 season, a whole lot of drama, and a fired coaching staff and front office. The new coaching staff and front office liked Revis as a player, but they weren't about to pay him $16 million per year -- which means Lovie Smith and Jason Licht cut him to spend all that money on some new players, and to turn a fourth-round pick into a third-rounder. They couldn't even get an asset for him, that's how much everyone hated that contract.
At the time I noted repeatedly that this move made some sense given Lovie Smith's style of defense -- that is, one where the importance of cornerbacks is de-emphasized. It's all about the pass rush for Smith, which means he'd much rather have a dominant pass rusher and a solid cornerback than a dominant cornerback and a solid pass rusher. Of course, the Bucs got neither with the money they saved by cutting Revis. They signed Michael Johnson, who racked up four sacks in 14 injury-marred games -- a not entirely surprising result given the fact that he was never a pure pass rusher in Cincinnati -- but he was really the only option available on the open market at the time.
Johnson wasn't the only player the Bucs signed, of course. Here's a quick overview:
Michael Johnson - Five years, $44 million, $16 million guaranteed - CUT
Anthony Collins - Five years, $30 million, $9 million guaranteed - CUT
Alterraun Verner - Four years, $26 million, $14 million guaranteed - BENCHED
Evan Smith - Four years, $14 milion, $7 million guaranteed - MEDIOCRE STARTER
Brandon Myers - Two years, $4 million, $2 million guaranteed - MEDIOCRE BACKUP
Clinton McDonald - Four years, $12 million, $5 million guaranteed - QUALITY STARTER
That's not exactly a list of impact players the Bucs managed to get for Darrelle Revis. I'd argue Alterraun Verner is actually a solid starter, but Lovie Smih clearly doesn't agree with me. Meanwhile, the Bucs could have used their first-round pick on....well, not a long list of impressive players to be honest -- that 2013 draft class was kind of a mess Still, lacking that pick and the 2014 fourth-rounder certainly hurt the team's depth.
This is making the decision to cut Darrelle Revis look worse and worse. Granted, the fact that the Bucs signed some supremely terrible players with the money they freed up by releasing Revis isn't necessarily an indictment of the decision to release him -- but it sure is hard to see the two entirely separately. After all, every free agent signing is a risk, and the Bucs knew what they had in Revis: a very good, maybe great player.
That's a recurring theme for that free agency class. They cut a solid but aging Donald Penn for a risky signing in Anthony Collins -- that backfired. They traded a solid but limited Jeremy Zuttah to sign Evan Smith -- and Zuttah has since outperformed Smith by a significant margin, while the Bucs had some horrifying guard problems that Zuttah could have alleviated. They also declined to re-sign center/guard Ted Larsen, who's now starting and playing reasonably well for the Arizona Cardinals.
So looking back, last year's free agency class was nothing short of a total disaster, one that's only looking worse by the day. And the early returns on this one don't look great, either. The team limited its exposure, mostly just signing ex-Bears to cheap deals -- but the one player they invested in was George Johnson, and he's largely been a non-factor this season. To be fair, Chris Conte has done well in the passing game and Tim Jennings looks like a solid addition. But it's hard to applaud Jason Licht for his work on the market so far.