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Vernon Davis sets new pay standard for tight ends Andrew Brandt

Print This September 17, 2010, 11:01 AM EST

Thanks to all for the kind comments about my column on Randy Moss almost becoming a Packer (twice). For those requesting the link again, here it is.

Before getting to a new pay standard in football for the tight end position, a note about the settlement of the Vincent Jackson suspension dispute. To review, Jackson was appealing a league interpretation that – even if traded from his present irrelevance to the Chargers -- he had to serve both a three-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy and an additional three-game suspension as a result of the Chargers having placed him on the roster exempt list. The NFL and the NFL Players Association – representing Jackson -- settled prior to arbitration, forging a compromise that – if traded from the team – requires a combined four, rather than six-game suspension.

For Jackson, who argued that the roster exempt suspension should not transfer to an acquiring team, he and his agents can now vigorously pursue a trade and new contract, perhaps to the Vikings, to get him out of a contentious relationship with Chargers management.

For the Chargers, they will now get closure. Any trade now has a finite time period on it, from today through Wednesday, a five-day window where they will either trade Jackson or keep him and his rights should he decide to report.

The settlement was a negotiation both sides can live with. And guess who did the negotiating? Yes, the NFL and the NFLPA. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could negotiate terms of the bigger deal they are working on (the CBA) this easily?

Vernon’s vault is open

Speaking of the Chargers, tight end Antonio Gates’s contract extension ($36.175 million, $20.4 million guaranteed) caused some ripples. Teammates Jackson and Marcus McNeill – stonewalled by Chargers management -- fumed.

Up the coast in San Francisco, Vernon Davis of the 49ers – entering the last year of his contract -- smiled. And now the 49ers have completed an exacta by -- along with an earlier extension for linebacker Patrick Willis -- locking up their most talented player on either side of the ball.  Here's my look at the deal:

Total Value

Davis – the 6th pick in the 2006 Draft -- had one year left on his rookie contract at $5.705 million. I negotiated the 5th pick that year, AJ Hawk (if Hawk was already picked, Davis may have well been a Packer).

The 49ers added five years past 2010 giving Davis total value of $42.455 million. Thus, the “new money” of the contract – minus the pre-existing amount for 2010 -- is $36.75 million, an impressive $7.35 million Average Per Year (APY), more than Gates’ $7.235 million and the other top deal, the Colts’ Dallas Clark’s (a deal done in 2008) $6.96 million.

$23 million guarantee

The contract contains an impressive $23 million guaranteed in the following form:

• 2010 “functional guarantee” of $13.874 million;
• 2011 salary guarantee of $4.708 million for injury;
• 2012 salary guarantee of $4.418 million ($3.306 for injury and $1.112 full guarantee at signing)

The “functional guarantee” suggests that the 49ers are obviously not cutting Davis now and if he suffers an injury, that money is due (same principle with Jets’ recent deals, including Darrelle Revis).

Due to the rules of this uncapped 2010, the $1.112 million guaranteed at the time of signing reallocates into the 49ers’ 2009 Cap (the last capped year), using every penny of Cap room they had left.

The 49ers and Davis’s agents tried to work around reallocation but did not want to get too creative here. They are already being cursed around the league as the team that created a guide for maneuvering around (circumventing, some would say) the 30% rule with the supersede bonus for Patrick Willis.

The $23 million guarantee bests the $20 million for Gates and recent wide receiver deals Brandon Marshall ($19 million) and Miles Austin ($18 million).

$26.5 million three-year value

Davis will make $26.5 million in the next three years. This makes him the second-highest paid tight end in this category, trailing only Clark ($27.55 million), and ahead of Gates ($25.275 million).

In sum, a new standard has been set for tight ends: the highest APY, the highest guarantee and the second-highest three-year value, to Dallas Clark, in NFL history.

Not bad for a player who was kicked off the field in the first game of head coach Mike Singletary’s tenure!

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

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