Tight end Vernon Davis, who made one of the most clutch catches in 49ers history but whose production has tailed off sharply in recent seasons, soon will be snagging passes from Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.
In a trade first reported by ESPN, Davis was shipped to Denver for a sixth-round pick in 2017. San Francisco and Denver also will swap their sixth- and seventh-round picks in the 2016 draft. The trade was confirmed by both teams and depends on Davis passing a physical.
“Not only has he contributed to some of the most memorable moments in franchise history, but he has also positively impacted the lives of many others through his efforts in the community,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement.
Davis, 31, has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 1 of the 2014 season, held out for a better contract last offseason and is in the final year of his deal. He also criticized quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a team meeting last month for being too closed off with teammates. The comment prompted an ardent defense from left tackle Joe Staley, although the two since have made up.
Davis was a first-round pick in 2006 and had been the longest-tenured 49er. That honor now belongs to Staley, a first-round pick in 2007.
Davis appeared on The Fan radio in Denver on Monday and was asked what went through his mind when he learned he had been traded.
“All I could think about was Peyton Manning,” he said. “ … Any of the quarterbacks I’ve had in previous years – Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick – those guys were amazing; those guys were awesome. But there’s just something about Peyton Manning. I’ve always been a fan of his, and I love the way he plays the game, his attitude, his approach. Everything about him is just special to me.”
Davis’ best season was 2009, when he had 13 touchdown catches and 965 receiving yards. He forever will be part of 49ers lore after crashing through a Saints safety to make a game-winning touchdown catch with nine seconds remaining in the 2011 divisional playoffs. Davis had seven catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
He also had 13 touchdown catches in 2013 but fell off considerably last season, when he had just 26 catches for 245 yards.
The 49ers’ tight ends now are Garrett Celek, Vance McDonald and Blake Bell. A fourth, Rory Anderson, is on injured reserve. Earlier this year, the 49ers traded another tight end, Derek Carrier, to Washington for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2017.
Broncos general manager John Elway is close to Baalke, and the teams scrimmaged against each other this summer.
While the 49ers have only two wins and clearly are in rebuilding mode, the Broncos are undefeated.