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.
|Player||Length||Value||Avg. Salary||Age When Signed|
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)|
|Player||Games||REC/YR||REC YDs/YR||REC YDs/G||TDs/YR|
|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|
|Vernon Davis (2012-13, SF)||15.5||46.5||699||45.1||9|
|AVERAGE PRIME %:||-.26%|
|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.
|Player||Value||True Guarantees||% Guaranteed|
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.
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)