NFL: How Will Darrelle Revis’s Decision Impact the Rest of the AFC?

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Darrelle Revis is on the move again. It appeared as though the four-time All-Pro cornerback had found a permanent home with the New England Patriots, but as it turns out, his stay in New England ended up being short-lived. After negotiations between Revis and the Patriots on a long-term extension failed, New England opted to decline Revis’s $20 million contract option for 2015, and the six-time Pro Bowler was officially an unrestricted free agent.

The Patriots continued their pursuit of Revis, but the future Hall of Famer chose to sign with the New York Jets and reunite with the franchise where he began his career. In a move that resembles Deion Sanders’s career path during the 1990s, Revis is going to become one of the rare All-Pro-caliber players to play for three teams in three years.

Losing Revis is a major blow to the Patriots in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. To make matters worse, they may also be looking to replace Brandon Browner, their other starting cornerback. The idea of the Patriots losing the combination of Revis and Browner likely caused several teams around the AFC to rejoice. The fact is that the Patriots will have a serious drop-off at the position in 2015, regardless of who Bill Belichick finds to replace the nearly irreplaceable Revis and the physically imposing Browner.

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Revis will undoubtedly improve the Jets’ defense, and he has the potential to thrive under new head coach Todd Bowles. That being said, his new team won’t be mistaken as being legitimate AFC contenders anytime soon. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos all had to be jumping for joy when the word got out that Revis Island was closing in New England and re-opening in New York.

The Colts are coming off a trip to the AFC Championship Game and have been big spenders in free agency this offseason. You could now argue that, on paper, the Colts look better than the Patriots. Even if New England had been able to keep Revis, the Patriots would have their hands full with the Colts’ newly formed trio of Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, and Donte Moncrief.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the most balanced offenses in the league. With the emergence of Martavis Bryant and All-Pro Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh has two dynamic options at wide receiver. Their running game, paced by Le’Veon Bell, is one of the best in the game. Even with Revis and Browner off the field, the Steelers offense would be hard for the Patriots to slow down.

There may not have been a team more excited to see the Patriots lose Revis than the Denver Broncos. The window for the Broncos to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at quarterback is rapidly closing, as 2015 will likely be Manning’s last season playing in the NFL. With the Patriots having to revamp their defense, the road through the AFC just got a lot less bumpy for Gary Kubiak’s squad.

The Patriots losing Revis may be more important to the teams in contention in the AFC than any free agency additions they made. He was their best defensive player in 2014 and has the ability to neutralize almost any wide receiver in the league. That said, the Patriots will still be among the best teams in the NFL. However, the gap between them and the rest of the AFC has been significantly narrowed, and their odds of defending their Super Bowl XLIX title decreased considerably as soon as Revis signed his contract with the Jets.