The Sultan of Football News, one Adam Schefter, was on ESPN Insiders today. One mild note of breaking news was his statement that the dumpster fire known as the San Francisco 49ers may be considering trading TE Vernon Davis. As with any guy on the trade block, the immediate concern is if this player can help the Jets.
As we all know, the Jets TE situation in the passing game is absolutely horrendous. Starter Jeff Cumberland has 2 catches for 10 yards, a robust 2.5 yards per game average. No other TE has a catch, unless we consider Quincy Enunwa a TE. If we do, the TEs have 87 yards on the season combined. In one word, yuck. Furthermore, the TEs have not been great in the run blocking department. While we can debate PFF grades, and particularly this new "player rating" system they have, I would say that Kellen Davis and Jeff Cumberland's low run blocking grades mirror what I saw in certainly the first 3 games, though they were much better against Miami.
Vernon Davis is, well, a former stud. He has a couple of 900 yard seasons on his resume. Just 2 years ago in 2013, Davis racked up 850 yards and 13 touchdowns, and was one of the best TEs in football. Almost instantaneously, it seems that Davis fell off a cliff, only recording 245 yards in 2014. This season he had somewhat of a rebound, putting up 108 yards in the first 2 games, which would equate to a 864 yard season over a full year, prior to getting hurt. He also is regarded pretty well as a run blocker in some circles at least, with PFF rating him as the 8th best run blocking TE in the league thus far.
Davis has had some things working against him. Some of it is his own athleticism, which was so tremendous it made him one of the legendary combine performers of NFL history, is declining as Davis gets into his 30s. Some of it is the fact that Davis hasn't really stayed healthy, and is in fact currently nursing a knee injury (though he expects to return this week or next). Some of it, however, can be pinned on the seemingly unfathomable regression of Colin Kaepernick, who has turned from promising talent of the future to lost turnover machine in the blink of an eye.
Of course with all trades, cost and contract are a consideration. This is Vernon Davis's contract year. If the Jets trade for Vernon Davis, they will be on the hook for his base salary, which is 4.35 million. With 5 weeks of the season gone, the Jets will take on a prorated amount of roughly 3.1 mil (didn't calculate it so don't quote me on it, but it should be approximately that). There's been no indication of what the Niners are seeking as compensation, though for a 31 year old injured TE who is coming off a bad season, I can't imagine that the cost is all that high. Dumping the remaining money and getting any pick for Davis puts the Niners a step closer to starting a rebuild. I couldn't imagine anything MORE than a 5th, and I'd honestly be surprised if it was that much, maybe a 6 or a 7.
Is it worth the cost? Certainly debatable. I am one to generally be against adding costly vets. Davis is somewhat pricey and is currently hurt. There's also a question of how much Chan Gailey utilizes the TE in his offense. I would argue that Gailey DOES use the TE in his offense... when he has one. However, over his various teams, his TEs have consisted of Mark Bruener (blocker), David LeFleur (1st round bust), whatever schlubs he had in Miami in 2000-2001, and probably his best TE (with one exception) was Scott Chandler in Buffalo who did get some utilization. However, the one year Gailey truly had a talent at TE was in 2008 with Kansas City, where Tony Gonzalez had over 1000 yards and led the team in receiving. I don't know if I buy in that Gailey's "system" doesn't use the TE spot; I think he's never really had one.
Is Davis a transcendent player? Absolutely not. At this point, I don't know if he's even a good player. Ultimately though, I think this is a team ready and built to win. And win now. At least, as ready as a team can be without having a franchise QB. Upgrading a spot that is not only a weakness, but is maybe the worst unit in football, is definitely something that is interesting to me. I will be fully transparent in that I was always, always a big Vernon Davis fan, since his days at Maryland. A disproportionate amount of passing targets and production go to Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Against better teams, having so few options could be a hindrance. If Vernon can pass a physical and costs a 6th rounder, I think I roll the dice. What say you guys?