Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is due to become a free agent on March 11, and there has been quite a bit of discussion on whether the Colts will re-sign him, and even more so as to whether they should.
To start out with, the most important thing to establish is what the Colts are likely to do, and it sounds like Davis and the Colts have mutual interest in working out a new deal. Obviously it's not a given until it's done, but I would be pretty surprised if Vontae Davis isn't on the Colts next year with a new deal.
But would it be a good move for the Colts to bring Vontae Davis back? Brad Wells wrote yesterday about why it's not worth it and is a bad idea, and it is really worth a read. He makes some great points that I absolutely agree with. But let me explain why I do think it is worth it to bring Vontae Davis back next year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Davis was a top ten cornerback in 2013. A very rough average for a top ten cornerback in 2014 is around $7 million base salary and $10 million cap hit. If you go out to a very rough average for a top 25 cornerback in 2014, it's around $4.5 million base salary and $7 million cap hit. [Note: Interestingly enough, Greg Toler is currently due to be paid a top-15 base salary among cornerbacks in the NFL. He's absolutely not top-15.] Again, those numbers are very, very generalized but give an idea.
Is Davis worth re-signing, even if it's to a top-25 deal? In my opinion, yes and no. I don't believe that Davis at this point should command that type of deal (especially top-10) and think that it would be overpaying for him, but at the same time I think that it would be worth it for the Colts. Allow me to explain.
In free agency, almost everyone gets overpaid to some degree. That's just the way it is. When I talk about a free agent being way overpaid (like Erik Walden or someone like that), I'm already factoring in that the player will be a bit overpaid just because of the way free agency works. Honestly, it's either overpay Davis or let someone else do so.
I still maintain that the best way to build a team is through the draft. But for the Colts as they currently are, it is not the wisest thing to do to try to address the cornerback position through the draft. Davis is a good corner and they won't be able to find one like him by the second round, and certainly not one who can contribute right away. It takes a draft pick or two away from other positions of need. And if they don't address it in the draft, then they'll just overpay for another free agent when they could have paid Davis.
I, for one, thought Davis had a good 2013 season. We saw him at an elite level at some points (early in the season, particularly against Denver) and we saw him stumble at others. I thought that he showed that he truly can be a top-tier corner, but he needs to become more consistent. I don't put much stock whatsoever into his interception total, which was only at 1 this year. Interceptions can really be skewed depending on the situation. For a number one corner, perhaps teams aren't throwing at him as much. Perhaps they're matched up against the opponent's number one wide receiver. I mean, a lot of things can lead to a low interception total that don't reflect that poorly on the corner himself when looking at it. Is this the case with Davis? Kind of. He is the team's number one corner and therefore does have the toughest task, but at the same time teams threw at him enough that we would like to see that number go up. But to dwell on that as a means of proving that he isn't that great is inaccurate.
Additionally, and perhaps most significantly, look at where the Colts would be without him. Their number one cornerback would be Greg Toler, the injury prone, overpaid corner. Darius Butler would have to step up into the number two corner role. If they re-signed Cassius Vaughn he would play a role, too. The team would also add another player, certainly, but it would either be through the draft for a player not guaranteed to contribute right away or be a hit at all or through free agency where they would still be overpaying for a corner, like they did with Greg Toler last year. With the glaring secondary issues already and with the uncertain future of whether Anotine Bethea will be back (and even then, he wasn't great in 2013) and with another overpaid free agent in LaRon Landry, who was terrible in 2013 at safety, the secondary has major questions. The last thing they need is another major shake up by letting Davis walk and bringing in someone less talented and quite possibly less experienced (not to mention with less time in the system) to replace him. You don't just find this caliber of a cornerback on the open market often, and moving on from Davis would mean downgrading at the position.
If the Colts truly are in win now mode, re-signing Vontae Davis is a must. Say what you want about his consistency issues, but he was easily the most talented corner the Colts had in 2013 and when he played well he was at an elite level. It will be really, really hard to find that type of guy - not to mention a 26-year old. Vontae Davis fits the system well, as he is one of the best man coverage corners there is, and he plays physical and does a good job on run defense around the edge too. He likes playing in Indianapolis, and the Colts like him.
He is a priority to re-sign this offseason, and I think that it is definitely worth re-signing him. In fact, if they let him walk and it's not because he wanted a simply outrageous amount of money, I will view it initially as a bad move and the secondary will have major, major, major concerns. That's not what Chuck Pagano wants at all entering a critical year three of his defense, and he is sure to want a guy that fits his system very well to return. I'm all for it too.