On March 11th, 2014, Vontae Davis signed a new contract with the Colts, which effectively made him one of the top 10 paid CB’s in the NFL. Originally a first round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, Davis was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a second round pick in August of 2012. He was quickly thrusted into the starting lineup and has been the team’s “#1 Cornerback” since that time.
Is Vontae Davis an elite cornerback? Davis finished the 2013 season with 46 tackles, 12 passes deflected, and an interception in 16 starts. The advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF) rated him as the 4th best CB overall last season, behind Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, Tyrann Mathieu, and one spot ahead of Richard Sherman (5th).
The advanced statistics show that he had a Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 98.0 against him, with his best game of the season coming against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, in which he held QB Peyton Manning and the high octane Broncos to a 45.8 QBR. For comparison’s sake, Seattle Seawhawks’ Richard Sherman, who is highly regarded as one of the best CB’s in the NFL, finished the 2013 regular season with a 31.4 QBR against him. This doesn’t mean that Vontae Davis is incredibly overrated; however, as another seemingly elite CB, Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson, had an overall QBR of 91.3 against him in 2013.
My personal take on Davis is that when he’s clicking, and clicking well, he’s an elite cornerback. He has as much talent and physical ability as any of the Top 10 CB’s in the NFL, except for maybe Patrick Peterson, who’s simply an athletic freak. However, he doesn’t always play to his ability, as indicated by his 98.0 QBR against him.
Still, players like Davis and Peterson have a higher QBR against them because they are playing bump-and-man converage, often left on their own island without safety help behind them and solely responsible for their side of the field. A player like Sherman, while great at his job, is more of a zone CB, who covers space occupied by elite wideouts rather than purely the elite wideouts themselves, physical monsters like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, etc. Consequently, Sherman always knows there’s safety help if he needs it (hence, the drastically lower QBR) and has less responsibility.
But what about compensation? Is Vontae Davis paid appropriately according to his fair market value? Yes, in what is a bull market for cornerbacks, Davis is getting paid fairly. In today’s NFL, it’s simply a lot of cash. A 26-year old, man-to-man CB, who graded out as one of the top DB’s in the NFL is going to get paid and paid quite handsomely at that. Davis is getting paid the 8th most in total cash value among the highest paid NFL cornerbacks.
Yet, keep in mind, that for NFL contracts, the cash value is really just a figurehead. The real important number for NFL contracts is what is guaranteed, as players can be released without seeing a dime of the rest. In this regard, Davis is guaranteed $20M, which effectively places him as the 8th rated CB in most guaranteed money. In terms of his percentage of total cash value (figurehead) that is guaranteed (more meaningful), Davis comes in at 55.5%, a percentage that ranks him as the 6th highest among the NFL’s Top 10 paid CB’s.
Davis looks like he got paid a fair deal all things considered. His play hasn’t been consistent enough to be paid like a Top 5 CB, but he’s showed enough in his production and potential at 26 to be paid like a Top 10 CB. If he puts it all together, he could definitely see himself eventually earning top dollar among NFL CB’s in the future.
As far as 2014 is concerned, the Colts should be comfortable in his play as the defense’s #1 CB, but there’s still hope that he can put it all together on a game-to-game basis and become one of the NFL’s truly elite.