Should Vernon Davis Be Traded?

Vernon Davis

According to Bleacher Report’s 49ers page, there are multiple teams inquiring about the availability of Vernon Davis on the trade market. Davis has essentially been a non-factor in San Francisco this season, but it appears that general managers around the league—like many Niners fans—believe there’s talent left in the former superstar tight end. So would it really be wise or beneficial for the 49ers to part with Davis?

Before we get started, this may all be a moot point. The report merely noted that other teams have expressed interest in Davis, while also clarifying that, as of now, the Niners haven’t made him available. The assumption is that the Niners could look to get something out of Davis before he becomes a free agent in 2016. Although, they may also prefer to see if he has anything left in the tank or potentially gain compensatory draft picks should he leave in free agency. Either way, the team will profit in some capacity from its aging tight end. And while we can’t yet say if it will be by trade or by allowing Davis to depart in free agency, the logical signs point to an end to Davis’s time in San Francisco.

For one thing, Davis has become more of a name than a player. That’s no disrespect to his talents or to how spectacular he was in his prime for the 49ers. Rather, it’s a simple fact regarding his production and injury history the last two years. Per ESPN, Davis has only eight receptions and 109 yards this season. Although he recently returned from a nagging knee injury, he went without a catch in the win over Baltimore. Certainly, no NFL general manager is foolish enough to trade for Davis expecting his 2012 or 2013 production, but at this point a trade could make some sense in that the name Vernon Davis is probably worth more than the player.

Also of note is the fact that Colin Kaepernick may at long last be hitting his stride. After Kaepernick put in a very respectable performance in a tough loss to the Giants in Week 5, the experts at Betfair did some mini-previews of the Week 6 games and put years of Colin Kaepernick analysis quite concisely into a single statement: if he can carry that form into the next clash, the Niners will be okay. That’s about how it’s always felt with Kaep. He’ll put in a quality performance demonstrating his immense talents and everyone sees that when all goes well, San Francisco can hang. Thus far, it’s been a tease most every time, but with two very solid games in a row under his belt, there’s a chance for the young quarterback to gain some momentum. And he’s set off on this pace with absolutely no help from Davis (or any other tight end), which could indicate the offense is ready to move on.

Really, there are only two apparent reasons to keep Davis in red and gold. The first is out of pure loyalty to a player who’s deeply ingrained with the Niners as an organization. The second is out of raw hope that he regains something resembling his old form—a possibility but probably not the likeliest outcome at this point. So when talk surfaces of the Niners and Davis parting ways, there’s a lot of sense to it. It’s likely just going to come down to a question of how he leaves.

And in that regard, it’s probably too soon to give much more than a semi-educated guess. Sports World Report’s Jets rumor mill pointed to the Jets as a possible trade partner, and they’re certainly one of the rosters that jumps out as a sensible destination. The Jets have a surprisingly potent offense led by Chris Ivory in the running game and the wide receiver duo of Brandon Marshal and Eric Decker. However, they’ve already shown that the receiving corps is shallow, having had trouble when Marshall and Decker have dealt with injuries. Davis would be a nice add simply as a possible depth solution, but his salary ($4.35 million) and age could keep the Jets at arm’s length. Beyond this option, it’s hard to come up with natural matches given that tight ends all a
round the league have ignited in an uptick of production. Most teams are likely pretty happy with what they’re getting from the position.

Perhaps, then, the most reasonable expectation is to lose Davis to free agency and collect the compensatory pick. But this will be an interesting story to watch, as we now know for sure that teams are asking about a trade.

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