By FRED GOODALL — Mar. 12, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Revis Island is relocating again.
Less than a year after moving from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a blockbuster trade that enabled him to become the highest paid cornerback in the NFL, the three-time All-Pro known for stranding opposing receivers in man coverage is out of work. He was dumped in a cost-cutting move.
The Bucs released Revis on Wednesday after efforts to trade him and his $16 million annual salary.
"It was a tough decision. He's a very good player," general manager Jason Licht said during a news conference introducing four of the five free agents as he and new coach Lovie Smith push forward with plans to overhaul a team that went 4-12 last season.
"We were able to get three very good players," Smith chimed at one point in support of what Licht described as a roadmap for success "for almost for the price of one."
"We're not trying to build slowly," Smith added. "We were a 4-12 team. There's a lot we have to do."
Revis was obtained in a pre-draft trade from the New York Jets last spring, a deal orchestrated by former coach Greg Schiano and GM Mark Dominik that cost the Bucs a first-round draft in 2013, as well as a fourth-rounder this year.
If Revis had remained on Tampa Bay's roster at 4 p.m. Wednesday, he would have been due the bonus and the 2014 pick the Bucs sent to the Jets would have become a third-rounder.
Revis was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he joined the Bucs and was given a six-year, $96 million contract. Despite not being 100 percent physically, he appeared in all 16 games and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl last season, when he had two interceptions, a sack and two forced fumbles.
"Darrelle showed a lot of heart last year as he worked extremely hard to get himself back on the field following his knee injury sustained the previous season," Licht said.
"We have specific ideas regarding the best way to build this defense and, while you never like to lose a good player, we believe this is in the best interests of our team moving forward," the GM added. "Darrelle was a true professional here in Tampa Bay and we wish him continued success in his career."
The release came less than an hour after the Bucs confirmed free agent quarterback Josh McCown had agreed to terms of a two-year contract, a move that reunites him with Smith.
A career backup, the 12th-year pro is coming off the best season of his career with Chicago. McCown started five games in place of the injured Jay Cutler for the Bears in 2013, going 3-2 and finishing the year with 13 touchdown passes vs. one interception.
McCown was a third-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. He spent the past two seasons with the Bears, including 2012 — Smith's last year in Chicago.
McCown, who turns 35 in July, will compete with second-year pro Mike Glennon for the starting job. Glennon started 13 games as a rookie for the Bucs, who fired Schiano and Dominik after missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Smith and Licht were hired in January and entered free agency determined to make some bold moves. In addition to signing McCown, the Bucs landed defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers on Tuesday, the first day team could complete deals.
"We're not simply talent collectors," Licht said. "We're finding the right fits."
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Improving the pass rush is a major priority. Signing Johnson (15 sacks over the past two seasons with Cincinnati) to a five-year, $47.5 million contract, and also nabbing McDonald (5 1-2 sacks in 2013 with Super Bowl champion Seattle) addresses that need.
Myers was a productive tight end with Oakland and the New York Giants the past two seasons. Verner received a four-year, $26.5 million deal to fill the void created by the departure of Revis, regarded as one of the top players in the league at his position.
The 25-year-old Verner had a career-best five interceptions and made the Pro Bowl last season with the Tennessee Titans.
"I wouldn't say I'm here to replace Revis," Verner said. "I'm looking to try to be the very best player I can be."