Despite one of his most productive seasons, Vernon Davis isn’t happy with his current and future role playing for the San Francisco 49ers. He feels like he is going to see less passes thrown his way, which doesn’t work out with his plans to get a big new contract. So what does he do? Right now, he is skipping OTAs and might avoid appearing in the mini-camp next month as well.
Davis, 30, has been in the NFL since 2006. He has never been a tight end that is the premier target for his team, although in the opportunities he has had to be a top receiving target he has usually proved himself more than worthy. He had a very good time with Alex Smith throwing to him from 2009 to 2011, but Colin Kaepernick taking over changed that, with Michael Crabtree and others taking a spot in front of him on the passing order.
Last season Crabtree was injured so Kaepernick was forced to use Davis more but aside from a few rare occasions, Kaepernick always prefers throwing to someone else, and Jim Harbaugh doesn’t seem to mind. Davis caught 52 passes for 850 yards and tied a career high with 13 touchdowns. He hardly saw the ball coming his way in the playoffs, catching only five passes in three games, two of them for touchdowns.
But skipping the OTAs Davis missed out on a $200,000 bonus, and missing the mini-camp means more money lost. He is due to make $4.7 million in 2014 and $4.35 million in 2015. It feels like the 49ers don’t think he is going to be of much use as a receiver in future years considering his age and wear & tear, and Davis senses that, which makes him try to push for a new contract now instead of wait for next season.
The 49ers have Crabtree healthy and more receivers than before. Even if Davis doesn’t decline physically and as a player in general, he’s likely going to see less passes coming his way, and his statistical output will decline no matter what. From the 49ers standpoint, there’s no reason to give him a new deal that is at the same level or close to this one, but this situation with Davis, their only significant tight end, isn’t helping anyone prepare for the new season.
Davis made the Pro Bowl for the second time last season and for the first time in his career he was selected to the AP All-Pro team. He is clearly one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but only if someone actually throws the ball at him at a satisfying rate. The 49ers didn’t stand in the way of Alex Smith when he wanted a trade, and it might come to that for Davis, who won’t be happy if his next team isn’t too eager to give him a new deal as well.