SANTA CLARA — After weeks of speculation and cryptic messages in the press, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves without two key offensive players to open up their mandatory minicamp Tuesday afternoon.
Both tight end Vernon Davis and Guard Alex Boone elected to skip the opening day of the mandatory camp due to alleged contract disputes.
While Boone has been steadfast in his willingness to holdout for a better contract, Davis initially made claims that he would attend the minicamp, only to reverse his stance during a blog post on MMQB Monday morning.
After stating that he believed both Davis and Boone would show up this week, Harbaugh expressed his disappointment in their decisions to withhold from team activities:
“There’s a voluntary segment to the offseason and we appreciate those guys who volunteer to make the team better. Now it’s mandatory and it’s not the decision I envisioned being the 49er way.”
While Harbaugh wouldn’t comment much further on the matter, offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke about what the absences meant for other players looking to climb the depth chart.
“All it does is give us a great opportunity for other guys to get in and get work. Again, it’s an opportunity for them to develop and show us what they can do.”
Tight end Vance McDonald has been getting the majority of work in Davis’s absence. After making strides in his blocking ability during his rookie season, the 49ers hope that McDonald can be more instrumental in the passing game during his second year with the team.
Roman said he has seen improvements in the 23-year old McDonald’s game already:
“He wore a lot of different hats last year. He was a little bit of a Swiss Army Knife last year. So he’s got a lot of experience to draw on. You could just tell the first day he walked in in Spring, it was an experienced guy coming in now.”
In lieu of Boone’s absence, competition at the right guard position has intensified. Adam Snyder and Joe Looney stand as the most plausible replacements, while Harbaugh stated in a previous press conference that tackle Jonathan Martin was a possible candidate for the position as well.
Snyder has seven more years of experience than Looney, though Roman was quick to praise the third-year player’s hard work coming into camp:
“Joe Looney has done a great job, he’s really shown himself well. I’m excited about what he’s been able to do with the opportunity. It’s next man up, that’s just how it goes.”
Although the 49ers hope he can eventually be groomed into their starting center, Rookie Marcus Martin has also had experience at guard as well, offering yet another potential name to be thrown into the race.
Davis’s $7.35 million annual salary is the third-highest among NFL tight ends, behind only New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Dallas’ Jason Witten. In his blog post on Monday, Davis made the claim that he feels he has outplayed the five-year, $37-million dollar contract extension he signed in 2010.
Davis last season pulled down 52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Some of Davis’s dissatisfaction may stem from the 30-year old’s desire for additional years to be added to his contract, but his financial motives may be powered by his self-branding through his partnership with the company Fantex.
Fantex, which allows investors to buy stock in a professional athlete’s “brand,” is scheduled to make 1o percent of Davis’ future earnings, giving the star motivation to maximize his brand’s worth.
Davis has already lost $200,000 dollars by forfeiting a workout bonus, and is set to lose up to an additional $70,000 by failing to report to minicamp.
Boone has more of a case for a new contract than Davis, ranking in at 38th in league salary for the guard position. Boone, who forfeited a $50,000 workout bonus earlier this offseason, is scheduled to make just a $2 million base-salary this season.
Like Davis, he too will forfeit $70,000 by holding out on the mandatory camp.