Davis keeping an eye on Graham ruling; 49ers not likely to be swayed

Davis keeping an eye on Graham ruling; 49ers not likely to be swayed
June 24, 2014, 6:45 am
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Vernon Davis has the third-highest average annual income among NFL tight ends at $7.35 million. (USATSI)

Tight end Vernon Davis is presumably keeping an eye on an arbitrator’s decision whether to classify Jimmy Graham as a tight end or wide receiver.

It’s a big deal for Graham, who was designated as the New Orleans Saints’ franchise player.

After all, the franchise tag for a tight end is $7.035 million. If NFL arbitrator Stephen Burbank rules Graham he should be classified as a wide receiver, Graham’s franchise salary for this season would leap to $12.312 million.

The two-day hearing concluded on Wednesday. A ruling could come at some point this week. On Sunday, Davis posted a photo of himself with Graham, taking a few months ago, on his Instagram account.

While Davis is clearly interested, it’s difficult to imagine the outcome of the ruling will have any impact on how the 49ers deal with Davis, a holdout from the team’s mandatory minicamp last week as he seeks a new contract.

Graham has a strong argument to be viewed as a wide receiver. He lined up 66.6 percent of the time at wide receiver or the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. He spent just 33.3 percent of his snaps as a traditional tight end.

Davis lined up just 9.8 percent of the time as a wide receiver and 22.5 percent in the slot, according to PFF. He was a true tight end on 64.5 percent of his offensive plays last season.

Graham’s production as a pass receiver is far greater than what Davis has accomplished, too. In the past three season, Graham averaged 90 catches for nearly 1,200 and 12 touchdowns per season.

Davis has a total of 93 catches for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

And if Davis, 30, wants to be paid like a wide receiver, a good comparison is Eric Decker.

Decker, 27, had 172 receptions for 2,352 yards and 24 TDs over the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos.

In March, Decker signed a five-year deal with the New York Jets this offseason that averages $7.25 million. Davis’ deal, which he signed in 2010, averages $7.35 million per season.

Interestingly, the same agent negotiated both deals. Todd France represents Davis and Decker.