This is nothing personal against Vontae Davis, the person. He's come a long way from the guy who showed up drunk/hungover at a Dolphins training camp practice in the Summer of 2012. In many ways, he's revitalized his career in Indianapolis and has provided a good presence as a cover corner in Chuck Pagano's defensive scheme.
However, Vontae Davis is not worth $35 million, which is the kind of money he can command as he enters free agency this year.
In two seasons with Indianapolis, Davis has only 4 interceptions. In 2013, he earned only one. While interceptions are not the sole deciding factor in determining a cornerback's worth - just like touchdowns are not the only way to measure a quarterback's value - they are important when it comes to determining whether a player like Davis should receive a nearly $5 million yearly salary increase.
Should Davis be re-signed to a contract similar to the one Green Bay gave Tramon Williams in 2010, his cap hit would rise from $1.8 million to roughly $5.5 million in 2014. Absolutely nothing was guaranteed to Davis when his contract was traded from Miami to Indianapolis. If general manager Ryan Grigson signs Davis to a 5-year, $35 million deal, Davis' dead cap hit could be significant depending upon how his bonus is spread out.
For those that like to point to Pro Football Focus' 2013 cornerback ranking of Davis as PROOF that he is indeed worth the money, please stop yourselves for a moment and think. I love PFF, and I sing their praises all the time. Just like anything else, their analysis is not be-all, end-all. If you honestly think that Vontae Davis - who was wildly inconsistent in 2013, as he standard statistics clearly show - was the third best corner in the entire NFL last season, you have problems.
Primarily, eyesight problems.
Again, I wish to stress that this is nothing personal against Davis, even though I'm sure someone in his camp will take it that way. This is about money and value. In my opinion, Vontae Davis is worth about as much as he was paid last season, which was the final year in his rookie deal signed in 2009. He received $1.8 million, with none of it guaranteed. If Davis signed a 4-year deal worth $10 million with a $3 million bonus, I'd say that's just about what he's worth.
Vontae Davis and his agent aren't doing that. They aren't stupid. They know someone will ante up and pay. That person might be Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson.
You see, contrary to what the Colts will have you believe, Davis and his agent hold all the bargaining power when it comes to them and the Colts having a mutual interest in signing a new deal. Grigson gave up a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft for Davis' services. For what Davis gave the Colts in two season, the deal was sound. However, if Grigson fails to re-sign Davis, that means he surrendered a valued, high draft pick for a two-year rental.
That would look bad for a general manager who pretty much crapped the bed with many of his moves in 2013.
Thus, Davis and his agent hold all the power here. Personally, I think that if Grigson were more secure in his job, he'd let Davis walk and look for cheaper options at cornerback while spending much of his estimated $31 million in cap space on finding pass rushers. Despite Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis leading the NFL in sacks with 19.5, Indianapolis only had 42 as a team. While that was enough to place Indy at No. 11 overall in sacks, it's unrealistic to expect Mathis to duplicate that level of production next season. The now-12-year veteran needs help, and not in the form of a $35 million Vontae Davis.
For me, I'd almost say that re-signing Cassius Vaughn is a higher priority than Davis. I know that reads funny on face value, but Vaughn is a solid player with speed and playmaking ability (3 picks last season despite 417 snaps played). He also comes cheap.
Along with Vaughn, there are better, cheaper options out there in free agency.
Just look at how successfully Miami replaced Vaughn by using the second round pick Indianapolis gave them on Boise State corner Jamar Taylor and signing veteran Brent Grimes to a one-year deal during the 2013 offseason. Grimes played better, and more consistently, last season than Davis did, allowing the Dolphins' pass defense to be ranked No. 17 overall, three spots above Indianapolis' 20th-ranked pass defense.
Another example of a cheap find is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who essentially signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Denver. He developed into a decent corner, and by the time the playoffs started he was their best corner.
The final example: Darius Butler. He was signed for nothing during 2012, and played very well for Indianapolis. During the offseason last year, he was re-signed to a a 2-year, $4 million contract. It was Butler, not Davis, who was Indy's best, most consistent cornerback in 2013. I stress consistent because, with Butler, you knew what you were getting game-to-game. With Davis, it was often hit-and-miss, and we're well past the point of waiting for him to "develop." Davis has reached his peak. This is as good as it's going to get for him.
There are always players out there to find, and it is Grigson's job to search these values out and ink them, not to prove that his 2012 trade with now-former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was "right." It's my instinct that says Grigson will allow ego, and not common sense, to push his decision on re-signing Vontae Davis.
I honestly hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. Regardless, I hope Vontae Davis succeeds wherever he signs. I also hope he cashes-in... just not with Indianapolis. Let someone else overpay for his services.