It's all worth it.
The first-round pick. The conditional pick. The $96 million they could pay out over the next six years.
It's all worth it.
Maybe the Bucs are more than one player away from being a contender, but they are one player closer now that general manager Mark Dominik put his career and the franchise's future on the line by acquiring cornerback Darrelle Revis from the Jets on Sunday.
The price was steep, for sure. No question this deal is full of risks, starting with Revis' health and happiness. The road to ruin in the NFL is littered with franchises that gave away their first-round picks for players who couldn't or wouldn't play.
But if Revis is healthy from his torn ACL — and the Bucs are convinced he will be — we are talking about a special player, an elite talent that rarely comes along, the type of player you build around.
When you get a chance to get a player this good, you do it.
Give Dominik credit for taking advantage of a unique opportunity to bring in a player who changes this organization. He changes the team on the field and boosts its reputation off it.
Just like that, the Bucs are suddenly the buzz of the league. In an entertainment business, the Bucs just became a headlining act. They are relevant again. They are fun again.
And let's face it, in no other scenario would a superstar such as Revis be interested or available in coming to Tampa Bay. Only because of this perfect storm — his injury, the Bucs' need for a corner, the Bucs' room under the salary cap, the Jets' decision to move on without him — was this deal even possible.
With that unique opening, the Bucs pounced on it, just like they did when they had a chance to get Jon Gruden, just like they did when they had a chance to trade for Keyshawn Johnson.
And let's stop for a moment and remind ourselves of who we are talking about here. This is a team that went 7-9 last season. This is a team that hasn't made the playoffs the past five seasons. This is a team that hasn't won a playoff game since they won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Isn't it about time to take a gamble?
Besides, are you really going to get worked up over trading the 13th overall pick? Teams dream of using the 13th pick to draft a player the quality of Revis, even if he gives the Bucs only four or five years. He's a shutdown cornerback capable of stopping any wide receiver in football and transforming an entire defense. Next year's third- or fourth-round pick is simply the cost of doing business in the NFL.
As far as the money, it's not guaranteed, and it won't impact the team's ability to sign, say, quarterback Josh Freeman in the future.
So, when you get right down to it, the only question is whether Revis, 27, is healthy enough and good enough to return to the form that made him the 2009 AFC defensive player of the year. That's the gamble here.
But, come to think of it, the draft is a gamble. There's no guarantee that the 13th pick would turn out to be a good player. There's no guarantee that the 13th pick won't tear up his knee. Heck, this is football. Everything is a gamble. Players get hurt. Players don't pan out.
If you're going to take a risk, why not take a risk on a player whom many consider to be the very best at his position?
Look, the Bucs were a completion or two from being the worst pass defense in NFL history. Even after signing All-Pro free agent safety Dashon Goldson this offseason, they still needed major help at cornerback.
If the Bucs hadn't traded for Revis, Plan B likely would have meant starting a rookie at cornerback, which would have been a never-ending horror movie in a division that features some of the best quarterbacks and wide receivers in football.
Dominik deserves credit for making a bold move. It would have been easy to hoard his draft picks and stay away from a player with a history of injury and holdouts. No one, including a fan base desperate for a winner, would have blamed him for walking away from this deal.
At the same time, if he had stood pat and the Bucs didn't improve next season, he probably would be out of a job anyway.
Ultimately, he looked at his options and decided he would rather go down swinging by acquiring a potential game-changer in Revis than hoping to find lightning in the draft.
When you're a team that is looking to become a legitimate contender in the win-now NFL, it sounds like a risk well worth taking.