Colin Kaepernick Got Paid, But What About Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis?

colinkaepernickLast month, Colin Kaepernick got big money. This has left Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis saying, “No Whammy!”

I can neither confirm or deny that there is a running bet amongst RotoViz writers to see who can slip the most outdated game show reference into an article.

Really though, it was a very team-friendly deal. Friendly or not, it’s still worth $19 million per year. That’s going to affect the team’s ability to pay their other players. Davis is staging a holdout in an effort to get a new contract, and Crabtree is in a contract year. The team can find a way to pay all three. But will they want to? The million dollar question: Do fantasy owners want them to?

The Fantasy Gumshoe recently made a case for Colin Kaepernick as a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2014, and I made the case for Michael Crabtree as a top fantasy wide receiver. Money is a big part of why these predictions may come true. QBs have been getting paid astronomical amounts lately, and a huge part of that is the new collective bargaining agreement. I would say that a more significant factor is that the NFL has become a more passing-oriented league, so of course teams want good QBs, even if they have to pay them a truckload of money. But ask yourself this: Do people like to pay for things that they have no intention of using? Of course not. I’m not sure it makes much sense to pay a QB around $20 million per year if you’re just going to have him manage the game while your defense and running backs lead the way. I suspect NFL general managers like Trent Baalke will see it the same way.

A key part of the Gumshoe’s case for Kaepernick was that we can expect the 49ers defense to decline this year. I said earlier that the 49ers would find a way to pay Davis and Crabtree if they really wanted to, but they can’t pay everybody. On a team as stacked with defensive talent as the 49ers, they are going to have to sacrifice some quality players on that side of the ball. I believe we may be witnessing the genesis of a self-perpetuating cycle at the NFL level:

  1. League becomes more passing-oriented.
  2. Teams give QBs substantial contracts.
  3. Teams invest their money on the offensive side of the ball to protect their investment in their QB.
  4. Due to the prohibitive size of the QB’s contract and the team’s heavier focus on offense, their defense begins to suffer.
  5. This leads to the team having to pass even more because of the decline in quality of their defense.
  6. Return to Step 1. (see: Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers)

I am unsure that Kaepernick will be a top-five fantasy QB in 2014, but I am incredibly confident he will be at some point in the future because of the above reasoning. Frank Gore has to retire someday as well, and we have no way of knowing if Carlos Hyde or Marcus Lattimore will be able to duplicate his success. Between these changes and my expectation that Kaepernick will continue to develop, I believe he makes a great dynasty play.

Obviously if the above reasoning is correct, Crabtree and Davis would benefit greatly. Davis doesn’t seem like a threat to holdout through training camp, and he has expressed a desire to retire a 49er. His contract ends after the 2015 season, at which time Davis will be 32 years old. If the team extends or re-signs Davis, they will have to utilize him more heavily, as he wants a substantial raise. If they let him leave, he will almost certainly join a team that will not underutilize him like San Francisco has. I think his usage in San Francisco has deflated his dynasty value in a way that does not reflect his talent level. Davis has a Freak Score of 102; Calvin Johnson has a score of 100. Davis may very well be one of the three most athletic players in the NFL.

I believe Crabtree is the best dynasty play of the three. The great thing about Crabtree is that he held a very long, very serious holdout when he was a rookie. Why is that great? Well, if Crabtree has a huge 2014, you’ve already benefited but then he would command a huge contract and be the focal point of the passing offense for either the 49ers or some other team. Tell me you wouldn’t salivate at the prospect of Crabtree catching passes from someone like Johnny Manziel. If he has a good, not great, year? Well that won’t change his value too much in and of itself, but it could affect what team he ends up on. The 49ers would likely not pay him what he wants in that scenario. Given his desire to get paid, there is a good chance he would accept a one-year, prove-it deal with some other team. In that scenario, it wouldn’t be outlandish for him to end up catching passes from someone like Tom Brady or Matt Ryan. His value would spike as soon as he signed his contract.

Many owners undervalue players on teams like the 49ers and Seahawks because of their defense/run-heavy style of play, but savvy owners can profit by targeting players like Kaepernick, Davis, and Crabtree before the team’s philosophy changes. You can trade more trendy players with similar long-term outlooks for these guys plus a little extra, and consistently profit.

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By Justin Winn | @TheHumanHuman | Archive

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