Contract Forecast: Vernon Davis

Contract Forecast: Vernon Davis
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Contract Forecast: Vernon Davis

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For many, offseason training is a way to reconnect with past teammates, and get acclimated with new acquisitions and draft picks. For some though, it's a time to step away from the team and try to gain leverage toward a new contract. This appears to be the case with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, whose absence from the team's workouts has been linked to his desire for a new deal.

Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler, has been a durable weapon in San Francisco over the past 8 seasons, playing in 119 out of a possible 128 regular season games. He's averaged 49 receptions, and 650 yards a year, while scoring nearly 7 touchdowns. He rated out as the #7 best tight end according to Pro Football Focus in 2013.

His current 5 year $36.75 million contract expires after the 2015 season, with $9.45 million in remaining cash and $4.315 million in unallocated dead money (that would carry over to a new deal). The current deal carries an annual average of $7.35 million, good for 2nd among all active Tight Ends (Jason Witten, DAL: $7.4M). All of this said, it's clear the name of the game here is cash for Davis. His contract still holds up as one of the better of his position, but carries a seemingly low amount of earnable dollars remaining. What we're dealing with here is the "Tom Brady" extension, i.e. a deal that adds years, lowers cap values, and pays the player up front dollars by way of a signing bonus and guaranteed base salaries.

We'll find the current worth of Vernon Davis by analyzing him in our forecast forumla, assessing his stiatistical production from the past two seasons against variable tight ends across the league.

Comparable Tight Ends
To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Jason Witten 5 $37,000,000 $7,400,000 29
Antonio Gates 5 $36,175,000 $7,235,000 30
Dennis Pitta 5 $32,000,000 $6,400,000 28
Heath Miller 3 $14,020,000 $4,673,333 31
Averages 4.5 $29,798,750 $6,427,083 29.5

Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.

View the list of Top Average Paid Tight Ends in the NFL

Davis turned 30 this past January, an age when most Tight Ends are restructuring lower contracts - not increasing their average dollars. We'll adjust the above contracts up/down to his age by adding/subtracting to the overall years to make each variable player 30 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
4 $26,960,388 $6,740,000

Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the year prior to signing their most recent contract by comparing Games Played, Receptions/Year, Receiving Yards/Year, Receiving Yards/Game, and Receiving TDs between our variables and Davis.
Jason Witten (2009-10, DAL) 16 94 1016 63.5 5.5
Antonio Gates (2008-09, SD) 16 69.5 930.5 58.2 8
Dennis Pitta (2011-12, BAL) 16 50.5 537 33.6 5
Heath Miller (2012-13, PIT) 14.5 64.5 704.5 48.6 4.5
Averages 15.625 69.625 797 50.975 5.75
Vernon Davis (2012-13, SF) 15.5 46.5 699 45.1 9
% Difference -.08% -33.21% -12.3% -11.53% 56.52%
MEDIAN PRIME % -11.53%

Obviously Davis' ability to find the endzone balance off these figures quite a bit - a note that shouldn't be discounted. Davis is a big pass threat, indicative of his lower number of receptions per year - but fairly on par receiving yards per game. He's targeted nearly half of what Witten was back in 2009-10, but the 49ers current offense is clearly built to spread the ball around more. We'll factor in both the Average and Median percentages to show a range projection below.

Guaranteed Money
We'll factor in our variable tight end's guaranteed dollars to forecast what Vernon Davis could expect.
Player Value True Guarantees % Guaranteed
Jason Witten $37,000,000 $13,352,000 36.6%
Antonio Gates $36,175,000 $8,800,000 24.3%
Dennis Pitta $32,000,000 $16,000,000 50%
Heath Miller $14,020,000 $5,000,000 35.7%
Adjusted Regression: 27.53%

Length of the Contract
This is one of the tougher calls we've encountered in recent projections. At age 30 Davis shouldn't be in line for too large of a deal - but with 2 years remaining on his current, well-averaged deal it doesn't seem feasible to extend him out much longer. That being said, Gates' current deal in San Diego takes him through the age of 35. We'll follow suit and give Vernon Davis a 3 year extension here.

Value of the Contract
All signs point to an extended relationship for Davis in San Francisco, with consistent production, reliability and touchdowns all a big part of his game. His production didn't quite match up with our combined variables, so the overall base value will take a bit of a hit.

Final Thoughts
Davis has been durable, reliable, and productive. He's been a viable weapon in an offense that has changed hands multiple times in his tenure, and had a bounce-back season in 2013 (52 rec, 850 yards, 13 TDs). While numbers this generally spark the conversation for a new contract - the fact of the matter is Davis is already playing in a deal that averages at the top of all tight ends. He and his camp will need to be realistic about that not being the case at age 30 going forward - and the name of the game should be comfort, cash, and guaranteed years.

The 49ers can be smart with this extension, adding a few extra cap dollars into 2014 and keeping 2015 low, understanding that QB Colin Kaepernick will most likely be inline for his sophomore contract in the coming months.

Remaining Contract: $9,450,000 (base salaries & workout bonuses)

Spotrac's New Money Extension: 3 years, $19,300,000

Average Salary:  $6,433,333

Guaranteed Money:  $10,225,000

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