Unlike last year, Davis will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. In restricted free agency, teams could apply tenders or match offers made by other teams. The Chargers will now have to offer Davis the best deal in what could be a competitive field.
In my Hunter Henry finances article, I mentioned the possibility of using the franchise tag to keep him for the 2021 season. There is no real way the Chargers could use a tag on Davis in the same way. Franchise tagging corners cost $16 million in 2020 and could still cost as much as $15 million in 2021.
A longer-term deal makes sense anyway. Davis isn’t going to be anywhere in the vicinity of $10+ million dollars per year, realistically speaking. What’s a realistic baseline for the deal? The Athletic’s Daniel Popper has the highest offer I’ve seen so far at 3 years, $28 million.
That’s about the highest I could see Davis getting, but it’s important to know where the ceiling of the contract could be.
PFF’s projection of Davis’ contract has the cornerback getting a 1 year, $3.5 million deal. That would be more than his 2020 contract, but not by much. The only way I see Davis taking that type of offer is if he has a more underwhelming market than expected.
Davis is not the top cornerback on the market. Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson will be getting rather large deals in terms of average annual value at least. Still, there are a lot of reasons that the former undrafted free agent will be attractive though.
Davis just turned 26 and has a great cornerback frame. 6’2″, 200 pounds with 4.3 speed isn’t particularly common with outside corners. While not the best corner right now, he may be the best value.
Front offices around the league also like to see improvement from year to year. With Davis, they’ve seen just that. He improved as a tackler as demonstrated by having fewer missed tackles despite 300+ more snaps. His tackling grade was specifically 26 points higher than in 2019 on PFF.
The BYU product gave up more than 50 yards just three times in 2020. Davis had pretty solid games against the likes of Mike Evans, Jerry Jeudy, Nelson Agholor, and Denzel Mims. The best game of Davis’ season was him locking down Stefon Diggs in Buffalo.
An interesting deal to look at when estimating what Davis could get is the contract of Patriots’ cornerback Jonathan Jones. Jones is also a 2016 undrafted free agent cornerback that played his way into a starting role with New England. He signed a 3-year deal worth $21 million with $13 million guaranteed.
The difference is that Jones is a slot corner for the Pats, so Davis’ contract could be slightly more for Los Angeles. $7-8 million per year just makes more sense for Davis as someone who’s incredibly talented but hasn’t hit his peak quite yet.
Another option for Davis is to take a one-year deal worth $7 or 8 million if he wants to bet on himself having a great 2021, setting himself up for 2022 free agency. That seemed to be what that PFF projection was inferring with the 1 year, $3.5 million dollar deal they gave him. The Chargers should try to lock him up for the long term now though, whether that’s a three or four-year deal.
A three-year, $24 million deal with $13 million guaranteed is what the Chargers should offer to their best outside corner.