With Davis in mind, 49ers should keep an eye on Graham, Pitta’s contract talks


With Vernon Davis under contract through 2016, the 49ers have no immediate need to sign a marquee tight end.

That’s a great spot to be in.

Game-breaking tight ends like Davis could become very expensive in the near future, as big names like the Saints’ Jimmy Graham and the Ravens’ Dennis Pitta lobby to receive the same financial treatment as wide receivers.

Graham and Pitta, who were listed among cover32’s top 10 free agent tight ends, reportedly aren’t close to resigning with their current teams, and could be slapped with franchise tags if they don’t reach agreements before the March 3 franchise-tag deadline. Should that happen, both players will likely file immediate grievances with the NFL.

As NFL.com wrote Monday, the projected 2014 franchise tag for tight ends is $6.8 million, as opposed to $11.6 million for wide receivers, according to NFL Media’s Albert Breer.

Given his numbers from 2013 and the nature of his position, Graham certainly could have a case. He mostly lines up in the slot like an overgrown No. 3 receiver. His stats are those of a franchise wideout though — Graham totaled 1,215 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns last regular season.

Compare those numbers to those of some of the top receivers in the league:

Josh Gordon: 1,646 yards, 9 TDs

Calvin Johnson: 1,492 yards, 12 TDs

Andre Johnson: 1,407 yards, 5 TDs

DeSean Jackson: 1,332 yards, 9 TDs

Brandon Marshall: 1,295 yards, 12 TDs

Eric Decker: 1,288 yards, 11 TDs

Dez Bryant: 1,233 yards, 13 TDs

Vincent Jackson: 1,224 yards, 7 TDs

Anquan Boldin: 1,179 yards, 7 TDs

Torrey Smith: 1,128 yards, 4 TDs

While Pitta’s numbers aren’t nearly as impressive, he assumes the same role as Graham in the Ravens’ offense.

Davis does, too. He scored a team-best 13 touchdowns and had 850 receiving yards (second most on the team) in 2013.

It seems unfair that elite players like Graham are limited to so fewer franchise-tag dollars as wide receivers simply because of where they line up on field — some tight ends line up outside regularly.

With Davis in mind, the 49ers should keep an eye on what transpires.

– By the way, Davis is the best tight end in 49ers history. (READ)

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