For the last few weeks, Vernon Davis' possible contract holdout was a bit fuzzy. After all, the only practice sessions he missed were voluntary (which meant it was not an official holdout), the only thing the tight end forfeited was a $200,000 workout bonus, and in a series of recent interviews he said he might, then he said he would, attend the team’s first mandatory session that begins Tuesday.
Davis both added clarity and seemed to doubled down on his holdout efforts today in a column he penned for Sports Illustrated's MMQB. Davis, who led the 49ers with 13 touchdown catches in 2013, said he's outperforming the contract that made him the highest-paid tight end four years ago. In an item titled, ‘Why I’m Holding Out,’ Davis writes:
In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. It was the biggest contract for a tight end in league history. 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.
Davis and his agent, Todd France, can argue that tight ends are undervalued in the league. The franchise tag number for a tight end is $7.04 million, more than $5 million less than the $12.31 million figure for a wide receiver. In fact, the only tag number smaller than a tight end's is the one for kickers and punters.
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The problem for Davis, 30, is that, as far as tight ends go, he is well compensated. His $7.35 million annual salary exceeds the franchise figure and is the third-highest of all tight ends, behind only New England's Rob Gronkowski and Dallas' Jason Witten.
The market could change in the coming months.
On Tuesday, the same day the 49ers are holding a mandatory minicamp, a grievance hearing for Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will begin. Earlier in the year, the Saints tagged Graham at the tight end level. Graham, who led the Saints in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last year, is arguing that he should be paid like a receiver.
That seems to be Davis' best argument as well.