When 49ers tight end Vernon Davis addressed earlier this month the connection between his decision to stay away from offseason workouts and his desire for a new contract, he downplayed the idea that he wants more money.
“It’s not really about looking for the deal,” Davis explained in a CNBC interview focused on his new venture with Fantex, which has converted him into a commodity with shares that can be bought and sold. “Everything I do is in the best interest of building my brand. I’m not really looking at it from a deal standpoint. It’s just how can I use leverage and continue to build my brand.”
Filling in on Monday for the vacationing Peter King of TheMMQB.com, Davis admits that, it really is about looking for the deal.
“In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed,” Davis writes. “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. I want the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, and I want to be on the field this summer working towards that goal, but I have to worry about my future first. Most of my teammates and many players in the NFL understand that. A few don’t. Behind closed doors, they’ll say they’re all about the team and would run through a brick wall for the organization. But when you look closer, they’re doing things to contradict themselves. I can’t listen to anyone but my family and my advisors, because those are the people who are going to be there when football inevitably dumps me.”
On one hand, Davis made his bed in 2010, agreeing to a deal that committed him to the team but that didn’t commit the team to him beyond the truly guaranteed money at signing. He could have insisted on a shorter-term extension. He didn’t. Now, he must honor the deal, even if he thinks he has outplayed it.
On the other hand, the folks who own NFL teams didn’t get to that point without using all available leverage in order to obtain a better financial position at virtually every possible turn. For Davis, his leverage comes from withholding services at a time when no financial penalty applies — other than the $200,000 workout bonus he has squandered.
He’s recently said he won’t lose another $70,000 by failing to report for a mandatory minicamp. But if Davis truly intends to hold out (as he uses that term), he should skip the minicamp and not show up for training camp, either. Of course, that would cost him $30,000 per day.
Actually, it would cost him only $27,000, since his Fantex “investors” now get 10 percent of his earnings. And that’s another contractual commitment Davis eventually will regret.
Writing in the column about his long-term career objectives, Davis admits that “in 10 years my goal is to host my own show, start acting, and continue to build a business empire.” If Davis succeeds, he’ll rue the day he opted to take $4 million in return for 10 percent of all brand-related earnings for the rest of his life.
So if he wakes up in a decade as the host of a daytime talk show with a smattering of seven-figure acting gigs and realizes that a dime of every dollar disappears before it ever lands in his wallet, Davis may consider holding out of his Fantex deal. Until he realizes that, in that context, there’s nothing to hold out from.
That’s why the Fantex deals make little sense. By taking the money up front and committing to the sharing of future earnings, the player essentially bets against himself. So if he ultimately wins over the long haul, he loses a ton of money along the way.