Vernon Davis may not be practicing with the 49ers, but he's not sitting on his sofa watching Modern Family reruns all day long, either. The tight end/artist/producer/curling enthusiast/businessman has a full slate of activities, including an art exhibit at his gallery that began last week and a runway fashion show on June 7.
On Friday Davis was taking orders and serving veggie smoothies at his Jamba Juice franchise in Santa Clara. He was shooting a spot for the chain and was wearing a 'disguise' for that spot, including glasses and faux dreadlocks. Davis was friendly and at ease behind the counter, including when a reporter showed up and ordered a small Berry UpBEET Smoothie. (Beets are good for the liver).
When asked if he had time to talk about his contract and what he was seeking, Davis said he had to consult his agent. After a quick phone call, he said he couldn't talk. Asked if he would take part in the 49ers' June 17-19 minicamp, the first mandatory session of the season, Davis said, “I might. I'm not sure. It's up to my agent.”
The tight end already has forfeited a $200,000 workout bonus by not practicing in Santa Clara. Should he skip next month's minicamp, he would lose another $69,455 – $11,575 for the first day, $23,150 for the second and $34,730 for the third.
Why would Davis, who is the third highest-paid tight end in the league, hold out? His agent, Todd France, has not responded to emails.
Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes on NFL contract and salary-cap issues for CBS Sports and the National Football Post, speculated that the tight end was trying to capitalize on the big numbers he put up last year. Davis caught 15 of the 49ers' 24 touchdown passes in the regular and post seasons. He was the team's only deep threat, and his 16.3 yards-per-catch average led all NFL tight ends and ranked eighth overall in the NFL.
He also turned 30 in January, and the 49ers suddenly have a full stable of wide receivers, which is in stark contrast to last year. Corry wondered if Davis and his agent were trying to strike while the iron is hot. “The likelihood he's going to repeat last year's numbers because of the firepower they now have in the passing game isn't that good,” he said. “I understand why he's trying to make that money now.”
The problem with that, Corry noted, is that the tight end market hasn't changed that much since Davis signed a six-year contract extension in 2010. That is, he may not be the highest paid player at his position, but he's not underpaid, either. Davis will earn $7.4 million this season. That ranks second on the 49ers to tackle Anthony Davis, who signed a five-year extension last year. Davis' salary is more than wide receivers Michael Crabtree's and Anquan Boldin's 2014 salaries combined.
The market for tight ends could re-set if the Saints' Jimmy Graham gets a new deal or Cleveland's Jordan Cameron is extended. But those deals have not occurred.
Asked why Davis and guard Alex Boone have stayed away from recent practices. Jim Harbaugh, appearing on KNBR radio's morning show today, declined to get into specifics.
“Yeah, I know the reasons,” he said. “(I’ve) talked to the players. If it comes to contracts and you want to talk about contracts, I’m not going to speak for another player. I’m not going to speak for another man and what they’re trying to get done with their contracts. … If they want to talk about it publicly, and they think it’s beneficial to talk about it publicly, then they’ll choose to do that. Certainly, you could have Vernon or Alex on the show and ask them or talk to their agent, if they think that’s something that’s beneficial. I choose to not do it.”