The San Francisco 49ers kick off their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, which means we'll get at least some kind of answer to what Alex Boone and Vernon Davis have planned in their respective contract situations. While Boone has maintained radio silence throughout the offseason workout program, Davis has had plenty to say.
Davis has been promoting his partnership with Fantext, and during his promotional tour, he focused on discussing himself as a brand. He talked about how he was looking out for his brand, and he made sure to emphasize that the OTAs he was skipping were voluntary. When he was asked about this week's mandatory minicamp, he initially was saying he probably should be there since it's mandatory. Then this past week, he told 95.7 The Game that he planned on being at minicamp. That seemed to clarify the situation at least for now.
Earlier today, Davis published a column over at MMQB in place of Peter King, who is on vacation. For the first time, he used the word holdout to describe his situation. He initially referenced his 2010 contract extension, which at the time made him the highest paid tight end in the NFL. Since then, Rob Gronkowski and Jason Witten have signed new deals that surpass that of Davis.
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.
Given that he said he planned on attending minicamp, I'm not entirely sure why he would not use the word holdout in describing his situation. I'd imagine his absence from OTAs did strike most of us as the first sign of a holdout, but does his choice of language now mean he will in fact skip minicamp? He faces a total of $69,455 in fines if he skips all three days of minicamp. If he skipped any of training camp, he'd face $30,000 in fines each day of training camp as long as he held out. If he attends minicamp, does he really then skip training camp given the potentially steeper total fines?
I don't really have an issue with a player holding out for a contract. Relative to Alex Boone, Davis is doing OK for himself contract-wise. But he is also coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He equaled his career-high 13 touchdowns, finished with 52 receptions for 850 yards, and remains a strong blocking presence. Davis is 30 and his NFL career only has so much time left. He could potentially end up like a Tony Gonzalez and provide strong play well into his mid-30s. However, Davis is smart enough to know he would be foolish to bet on that.
Davis's chance at free agency will not arrive until he is 32 years old. I understand that he knew this going into the contract. However, given how quickly NFL teams can dump a player when they decide he's no longer worth the cost, I get wanting to push for a new deal sooner. The deck is generally stacked in favor of NFL management, and a player has to do what a player has to do.
What does annoy me a little bit is the fact that Vernon has seemingly sent some mixed messages. He's taken charge of the media angle on this, getting his side out there. The problem is he has not exactly been 100 percent clear on this situation. He had said it wasn't really so much about a contract as about his brand. I don't think anybody bought that it wasn't about his contract, but I get him talking about his brand. Then he sort of played coy with minicamp with his "Well I should probably be there." Then he said he'd be there, now he's using the word holdout. If he's trying to keep 49ers management on their toes, I suppose this is one way to do it.
We'll get at least the first step toward some kind of resolution starting on Tuesday. I do agree that this is strictly a business thing. People will take it personally, but it's a business. I would be a little bit confused based on his previous comments about attending minicamp, but he's a grown-up, and he's got his plan in place. Whether it works and gets him a new contract remains to be seen, but it remains a business issue.
Holdout aside, Vernon's MMQB column is worth a read. He discusses issues of financial literacy among NFL players, and I agree that is an important issue. He also had a quick comment about Aldon Smith's situation:
I think the only thing we can do for Aldon Smith is support him and have his back and be there for him when he needs to talk. We don’t live with him, and we don’t see him on a daily basis. He has to take control and focus on doing everything the right way. He has to want it. He has to take charge.
Give the column a read. It's a good one.