Should the Washington Redskins Sign Fred Davis to a Long-Term Deal?
Although Chris Cooley was an elite tight end in the league, Davis looked to be on the upside of the breeding hybrid tight end position -- something along the lines of Kellen Winslow or Vernon Davis. Sure, Cooley was an effective blocker and a reliable receiving target, but Davis' athleticism and size for the position was too much to pass up.
Fast forward five years to the present, and Redskins fans have to be at least somewhat disappointed with the way things have turned out.
As Davis prepares to enter his fifth professional season, his statistics thus far may not be exactly what the Redskins anticipated. In 55 career games, Davis has hauled in 131 catches for 1,648 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Those stats, however, are interpreted and contrasted with Cooley's statistics and his production in mind. When Davis first joined the team, Cooley was the starter, and it wasn't until Cooley started to battle injuries that Davis got his shot to really play.
Last season -- one in which the Redskins won only five games -- Davis served as the team's lone offensive playmaker. And even after being suspended for the final four games of the year following failed drug tests, Davis finished the year with 59 catches for 796 yards (good for 12th amongst tight ends) and three touchdowns.
Coincidentally, Davis' best year as a pro was made possible by way of injury to a starter, while also occurring during his first contract year.
But as the team's best playmaker on offense, why is there even a question as to whether signing Fred Davis to a long-term deal is a good idea?
Would You Show Davis the Big Dollars?
The most obvious reason begins with Davis' maturity. Since his first training camp, in which he overslept for practice and struggled to understand the playbook, Davis has done nothing but made things tougher on himself.
In addition to his failed drug tests and four-game suspension last season, Davis is currently representing himself in a bizarre legal matter in connection with a DC-area escort. He has also recently admitted to attending clubs and parties on nights before a Redskins 1:00 p.m. game.
Assuming that Davis wades through his legal muck, the face lift that the roster received over the course of the offseason doesn't exactly create a cushy slot for the 26-year-old tight end either.
Third-year head coach Mike Shanahan and the Redskins front office made it their mission this summer to go out and acquire playmakers that could inject explosiveness and speed into the offense. In turn, an electrifying quarterback like Robert Griffin III was mortgaged for and YAC receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were signed to lucrative deals.
Shanahan and the Redskins are also in the process of a key position change for one-time wide receiver Niles Paul. After watching the 6'1", 233-pounder play the receiver position with such physicality, Shanahan decided to convert Paul into a tight end.
Taking into consideration that Paul is just 22, and entering his second season in the NFL, no one expects him to become Shannon Sharpe in his first year at a new position. However, the potential for him at tight end is huge. And if his development looks good in year one, that too could help the front office decide if Davis is really worth a long-term deal.
Based mainly on Davis' maturity issues, and the fact that he's one strike away from a year-long suspension, the Redskins are using 2012 as a "show-me" season. So Davis will make $5.4 million this year with the team's franchise tag applied.
In theory, let's assume that Davis has another good season. Perhaps his best season to date. Something around 80 catches for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns. Then again, it is a contract year.
It would then be fair to predict that he and his agent would attempt for a max-deal. Would they shoot for a Zach Miller-like contract of five years, $34 million ($13m guaranteed)?
Or would Vernon Davis' most recent contract in San Francisco stretch the idea of a deal closer to six years, worth somewhere over $40 million ($20m guaranteed)?
Considering the progression of the tight end position and the influx of potential talent in each year's draft, the Redskins shouldn't necessarily feel as if their feet are held to the fire with Davis.
Not to look too far ahead, but even the 2013 Draft Class carries some pretty impressive names amongst the tight end position that could intrigue the Redskins this season, such as Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, UCLA's Joseph Fauria, Ohio State's Jake Stoneburner and Nebraska's Kyler Reed, just to name a few.
The upcoming 2013 free agent market for tight ends appears pretty bare. Other than Martellus Bennett and veteran Tony Gonzalez, the Redskins' best bet would be to look to the draft if they were, in fact, looking to turn away from Davis.
Although Fred Davis is packed with potential, and his game fitting the mold of the fast-changing position, his bonehead decisions over the years have to make it difficult for the Redskins to throw a lot of money his way.
Taking everything into account, from the added offseason talent, to the development of current players on the roster and to the general surplus of talented tight ends that come out in the draft every year, Davis isn't necessarily a must-sign for the Redskins.
We also shouldn't forget that, since arriving in Ashburn, Mike Shanahan has worked to reshape the Redskins locker room and instill character like we haven't seen in years. Perhaps a guy like Davis just isn't in the team's long-term plans.
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