Anyone who's watched the 49ers over the past six or seven years is well aware of who Vernon Davis is. For a while he was the only respectable pass-catcher on the entire team, Mr. Big Play, including Alex Smith's favorite target for more than a few years. He's been a huge part of 49ers history, especially of late.
But set aside the nostalgia, the memories of the long bombs for touchdowns, the emotional comeback against the Saints, etc. Let's look at Vernon Davis and consider his current situation, which is holding out for what he probably believes is one more "big" pay-day in San Francisco.
Now, if you're the Yankees, which is always my go-to analogy for "paying for past performance", then yeah, you open up the pocket book and pay the man. He's evoked tears when thinking about just how much he's meant to the organization in the past.
But this is the present, and more importantly, the future we're talking about. The question is, would you pay him any significant amount of money, knowing he still has two years left on his deal?
Yeah, I said it. I'm not going to spout off statistics and metrics (same thing?) to prove my point. Sure, it's going to be purely anecdotal, so disagree with me at your leisure. Hell, I often wonder, even embrace, that my role tends to be that of "the guy with whom you disagree". I don't try to be a Skip Bayless over here, but I have my own takes (sometimes sizzling) and I don't really care if 99% of the population feels to the contrary.
Bottom line for me is this: Vernon is fast.
Now cue the homeristic chants of "He's the best, most complete, do EVRYTHANG-TE in teh wurld, bruh!".
His blocking is good, not other-worldly. Sure he's more of a tough-guy than Jimmy Graham, but he's not Ben Hartsock or Ben Celek in the run game, and check his pass-blocking from last year if you want to see what "meh" looks like.
He's a deep threat. C'mon, think about it. How many memories do you have of Davis streaking down the seam for a huge gain, or an over-the-shoulder corner route for a TD? Ok, now how many short passes where he trucks a defender and drags three guys for a first down?
Jump balls? Diving catches? Boxing out like a basketball player? Nope. That's not Vernon's game.
He's a huge-ass sprinter with good functional strength and so-so hands. Can you really argue much more than that? Yeah I'm oversimplifying it, but if you had to describe him in one short sentence, I think I did a pretty good job there.
Plus, he's 30 years old and relies on speed to win. The 49ers have him until he's 32 (by the end of the 2015 season). How much speed do you think he'll have left after that point?
And what happened when defenses rolled coverage his way when injuries depleted the WR corps? He disappears in games based on who the defense wants to cover, and often enough they succeed with that strategy.
Speaking of the WR corps...there seem to be a lot more capable bodies at the spot nowadays. If you say in one breath that the team will open up the offense, use more multi-WR sets, etc, you can't really tell me that Vernon is going to keep putting up 12 TD seasons.
I guess what it really boils down to, though, is do you think this team is just plain doomed in two years if Davis isn't on it? Besides, by then he could be experiencing an ever-so-graceful decline, and they can pick him back up on a more fair price based on his ability.
If not, well, there are more and more guys coming out of school each year who have speed to go along with their prototypical TE size. Who knows, these type of players may very well be growing on trees by 2016. I mean, I'm sure someone's planting seeds down in SEC country, if they haven't already.
Look, I like Vernon. I hope he can find a way to stay happy, healthy, and productive in San Francisco. But I'm not paying him like a top TE at age 30, under contract for two more years, with uncertainty on all fronts. That's a huge risk in my book, especially for a team with so many other concerns from a cap-and-cash standpoint.
Bottom line is this: If this post riles you up, then I trolled you. If you agree with me, well then that's awesome too.
Have a happy Independence Day and try to keep all or most of your digits attached. 'Murica