Deciding a player's worth is never easy. But when that player is one of the most consistently great tight ends in the NFL, it should be a quick decision—pay him accordingly.
That's exactly what Vernon Davis has been for the San Francisco 49ers throughout his career. After five straight seasons of suiting up in every game for the franchise, Davis missed just one game and still tied career-best numbers in several receiving categories.
In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. It was the biggest contract for a tight end in league history. Four years later, and I’m playing at a higher level than I was then, which brings me to why I’m holding out. It’s all about getting paid what you deserve. It’s not that complicated. I want the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, and I want to be on the field this summer working towards that goal, but I have to worry about my future first. Most of my teammates and many players in the NFL understand that. A few don’t. Behind closed doors, they’ll say they’re all about the team and would run through a brick wall for the organization. But when you look closer, they’re doing things to contradict themselves. I can’t listen to anyone but my family and my advisors, because those are the people who are going to be there when football inevitably dumps me.
While the astronomical contracts for professional athletes probably seems ridiculous by most standards, Davis has a point when it comes to the pay. On a team where he has been the central piece offensively in the passing game, he deserves to be compensated as such.
One player who nearly every tight end has been compared to in recent seasons is Jimmy Graham, and with good reason. The New Orleans Saints player has been one of the most sensational receivers during his four seasons with the franchise and earned his spot as the top tight end in the league.
Marc Sessler of NFL: Around the League provides comments from Davis on Graham's contract situation, "Woohoo! That works for me!... You know what? I'm a tight end. I'm a tight end. But I must say, if it happens, then I'm sure every tight end's going to try to follow behind Jimmy Graham."
If Graham is considered the premier tight end, Davis has certainly made a case as the second best.
In the last three seasons, Davis has 600 yards and seven touchdowns in comparison to 210 yards and three TDs. While Davis has played in one more postseason than Graham, both compare favorably to other top tight ends last season:
|Top TEs Last Season (Regular and Postseason)|
One player clearly omitted from that list was Rob Gronkowski, who missed much of last season due to injuries. Most of those numbers for Davis were also posted in an offense with several receiving options outside of the tight end.
All in all, Graham has put up the numbers that suggest he should have a restructured contract from the Niners. Following the announcement of Colin Kaepernick's recent contract, it's no wonder the 30-year-old wants to see an updated salary in his future.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area provides his thoughts on the situation between Davis and the Niners:
As for the Niners, the franchise might look to hold out as long Davis can. San Francisco made offseason additions like Stevie Johnson and already has a great receiving corps returning with Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in the mix.
But what Davis brings to the team is clearly not just a great tight end, but one of Kaepernick's favorite targets in the red zone. Heading into his ninth year with the team, he hasn't slowed down a step and should be a crucial component to the franchise's future.
For a player still in his prime, the time is now for the Niners to pay up. With several great seasons still ahead, Davis is worth it.
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