It has been reported that San Francisco 49ers’ tight end, Vernon Davis, and guard, Alex Boone, are planning to holdout throughout training camp. Both players play very important roles on the offense and have been greatly contributed to the 49ers’ recent success. Both players also believe they are underpaid, but who has more leverage?
Vernon Davis has been one of the best tight ends in the league since the very beginning of his career. He had been Alex Smith’s favorite target for years, and has remained the teams most dangerous receiving threat even up to the present. It would be foolish to assume that his absence would not hurt the team. Davis is an extremely important asset to the 49ers’ offense and a player that every defense respects and fears. However, Davis may be barking up the wrong tree.
First off, Davis doesn’t have much leverage, if any, over the 49ers. Davis signed a five-year contract in 2010 that made him the highest paid tight end in the league at that time. This means that the 49ers still have Davis under contract for two more years. While the team would obviously miss him, if the 49ers choose not give him a new contract, Davis would not be able to play football for two years, and he would lose money every time he did not show up to events such as games and practices.
All in all, Davis would lose more than he would gain by holding out into the season. If Davis chose to go this route, he would be 32 and out of football for two years. He still might not get the contract he wants because teams would be skeptical to sign the older, rustier version of Vernon Davis.
The main leverage that Davis has is the lack of depth that the 49ers have at tight end. It is a pretty big drop off between Davis and the rest of the tight ends on the roster. However, this might not be enough to get Davis what he wants.
Alex Boone’s situation is different than Davis’ situation, in that most people would agree that he is underpaid. Vernon Davis has already gotten his contract and his payday, and Boone is still looking to get his. That is not to say that Boone has the leverage.
Coming out of college Boone was a player that struggled with alcohol and had a some off the field issues. Despite this, the 49ers agreed to sign him as an undrafted free agent in 2009, and eventually signed him to the active roster in 2010. Because of Boone’s problems he signed for less than he wanted, but that’s just how the NFL works. No other team was willing to give him a chance, even when he was on the practice squad and ripe for the pickings. If not for the 49ers, he could be out of the league.
After two years of starting, Boone has definitely proved that he deserves more, but the fact still remains that the 49ers have some leverage over him because of their good graces. It’s possible that Boone is hurting himself more than helping himself with this holdout. If he had shown up and played at the same level he has over the last two years, the 49ers definitely would have rewarded him with a much better contract. But now, the 49ers might just wait a bit longer and maybe even shave a little something off the final salary.
Unlike with Davis, the 49ers have a good amount of depth behind Boone on the depth chart. This is another factor that allows the 49ers some leverage over Boone, because they can survive without him. They probably won’t be able to match his level of play, but they can still get some adequate play from their other players.
So who has the most leverage in negotiations? From an outside perspective, it appears that the team has more leverage in both cases.