Will Vernon Davis play this Sunday after leaving last week's game with a concussion? Possibly, but don't bet on it. His recent comments to reporters indicate he may not be ready for tomorrow's season finale. Now before 49er fans start worrying, consider that this might actually be a blessing in disguise. Think along the lines of 'Alex goes down but Colin steps up' for a moment.
As speedy, powerful, and athletic of a tight-end that Vernon Davis is, he's all but disappeared in the last five games, catching just five receptions and zero touchdowns. Furthermore, he's disappeared as a red-zone threat, catching just ONE touchdown in the last 12 games this season.
So what about Davis' backups? Garrett Celek filled in well enough to catch a couple of tosses for 41 yards. Also, utility man Delanie Walker has become a preferred target of Colin Kaepernick, going back-to-back games over the past two weeks with a touchdown in each.
So what does this mean for Davis? It means he's somewhat replaceable from a production standpoint and begs the question on whether the 49ers should extend soon-to-be free agent Walker and/or begin featuring Celek more in their offense.
Consider that Walker's earning $2 million this year as a flex/utility man and could readily start as a tight end for other teams around the league. So would Walker bolt after this season when he becomes a free agent? Well, the 49ers are up against the cap, and that seems to be likely.
Meanwhile, the 6'5 250lb Celek is on a cap friendly deal that pays half a million dollars per year through 2014. Unfortunately, Davis' contract isn't so cap friendly. It pays him over $22 million over the next three years, where he wouldn't become a free agent until after the 2015 season.
That's a lot of money going to a tight-end that's no longer featured in the team's offense. Now before you go saying that Davis just needs to work on his chemistry with quarterback Colin Kaepernick or learn to live with being double-covered, consider Davis' trade value.
Davis is in the prime of his career, so if they traded him to some bottom-feeder in the AFC for some high-value draft picks, that could bode well for the 49ers in a few ways. First, it would give them an opportunity to stock up on coveted talent coming out of the collegiate ranks. Second, it would lower their cap hit by over $22 million over the next three years. And third, it would give players like Celek and Walker a chance to stay with the team while filling Davis' role.
Of course many 49ers fans will consider the prospect of trading Davis sacrilegious, but given the 49ers' cap situation and Davis' declining production, it may make sense to repalce him with Celek and Walker on a permanent basis.