While the San Francisco 49ers wrapped up important business on Wednesday by signing Colin Kaepernick to his contract extension, they still have some contract headaches in the form of two absent players. Right guard Alex Boone and tight end Vernon Davis are both skipping the team's OTAs, with reports indicating they are looking for new contracts.
Fooch's Update: Apparently Davis was on ESPN this morning and said something about how he never said he was looking for a new deal, just that people are saying that. I have not seen the segment yet. Did anybody see it? He also appeared on Jay Mohr's show yesterday, and said he is looking out for the best interests of his brand. "We sometimes have to make a business decision, and my decision is to work out on my own, focus on building my brand, as well as balancing everything out. At the end of the day you have to have that complete balance."
Vernon Davis was making the rounds on Wednesday and had a chance to discuss some of the issues surrounding his situation. One of his more interesting comments involved New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints and Graham are in the middle of a dispute over his position. The team franchised him as a tight end, but Graham has filed a grievance asking that he be declared a wide receiver. The dispute is significant because the franchise tender for a tight end is $7.03 million, while the franchise tender for a wide receiver is $12.3 million.
Graham's grievance hearing is scheduled for June 17-18. This is the first instance of this kind of franchise tag disagreement reaching an arbitrator. Drew Brees filed a grievance based on his previous tagging with the San Diego Chargers, but when Terrell Suggs filed a grievance about whether he should be considered an outside linebacker or defensive end, the two sides ended up agreeing to a contract that split the difference.
Graham is arguing that because he lined up in the slot or out wide on 67 percent of his snaps, he should be considered a wide receiver. Davis acknowledged that he considers himself a tight end, and while he is a field-stretching tight end, the stats point to him being more of a traditional tight end in many respects. As Matt Barrows pointed out, PFF stats indicated Davis lined up as a traditional tight end on 64.5 percent of his offensive snaps.
We don't know specifically what Vernon Davis wants from a new contract, but it's not hard to make some inferences. Davis is coming off a season in which he led the team in touchdown receptions, and continues to be considered a strong blocking presence. He also is 30 years old. He has to recognize that this is probably his last chance to really cash in. He is signed through the 2015 season, and given the addition of Stevie Johnson, Bruce Ellington, and Carlos Hyde, and the full-time return of Michael Crabtree, his numbers very well could go down in 2014 and 2015. He could remain a great tight end, but when it comes to contract deals, stats are going to dictate a lot. Davis's total deal remains one of the top three among tight ends, but with more early guarantees, his current take is not quite as high.
It remains to be seen how exactly this will play out. Mandatory minicamp is a week and a half away, and that's the first time the 49ers can start imposing financial discipline. It will be a thing if he skips mandatory minicamp, but it becomes a big thing if he starts skipping training camp.
Davis is not getting into serious detail about what he's looking for, if anything, so we have to wait and see how exactly this plays out. The 49ers still have some cap room thanks to a low first year cap number for Colin Kaepernick. At some point the 49ers would seem likely to get an extension or two done. Maybe it'll be Davis, maybe it'll be Crabtree, maybe it will be somebody else. Who really knows at this point!