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The New York Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last April.
It was a sensible but demoralizing trade for the team — a sign that they were transitioning into rebuilding mode after a few years of futilely trying to contend.
Six months later, though, the trade has worked out as well as the team could have hoped for.
The Jets got the 13th-overall pick in exchange for Revis — which gave them two picks in the top 15 in last spring's NFL Draft.
With their own pick (9th overall) they took cornerback Dee Milliner (more on him in a second), and with Tampa's pick (13th overall) they took defensive end Sheldon Richardson.
Richardson looks like a superstar. He has been one of the three best rookies in the NFL this year by every metric. Grantland's Bill Barnwell has him as the second-best player taken in the 2013 Draft, writing:
"New York ranks first in run defense DVOA, and Richardson has a lot to do with it (although Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson don’t hurt). A penetrating three-technique tackle in college, the thought was that Richardson would come in and be more effective as a pass-rusher early on, but it’s in the run game where he has done most of his damage. An incredible athlete, Richardson never really stops."
Pro Football Focus — the stats-based NFL site — is even higher on him. They have him as the frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year based purely on statistics.
While Richardson has been a game-changer for a surprisingly decent Jets team, Revis has struggled for the winless Bucs.
Revis became one of the best players in the NFL by playing man-to-man defense in New York. For some reason, he has played a ton of zone defense for the Bucs — which has taken away precisely what made him so good.
Revis says his injury is partly to blame, and he'll get back to his old self later this season.
But the main point is that Revis has slipped from his elite, 2008-11 form. The Jets wouldn't have been able to keep him when his contract expired at the end of 2013 anyway. So they essentially traded one year of a sub-standard Darrelle Revis for a (maybe) franchise-level defensive lineman.
The only thing that has prevented this trade from being a true home run for the Jets is the shaky performance of Milliner. The ex-Alabama corner has been benched twice this year. Last week against Cincinnati he allowed four catches for 108 yards before halftime.
It's certainly way too early to write him off, but the Jets thought they were at least getting a starting-level cornerback when they drafted Milliner to replace Revis. Right now it's unclear if he's that good.
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