As we saw on Monday, retired offensive tackle Anthony Davis announced that he had officially applied for reinstatement to the NFL after he abruptly retired mid-way through the 2015 off-season.
Now, the NFL has not officially made any statement about this but it seems to be only a matter of time before Davis is granted to re-enter the league. The San Francisco 49ers do own his contract rights, after he signed a five year contract extension in 2013. As it stands, Davis is currently set to carry a $5,150,000 cap hit in 2016 and a $24,400,000 collective cap hit from 2016-2019 ($6,100,000 average annual value). His contract is pretty reasonable for a former top offensive tackle who is only 26 years old.
But if/when Davis does get reinstated, it is not a guarantee that he will be with the 49ers in 2016. Back in April, Davis had tweeted out:
"I'll be filing for reinstatement to the NFL later this year. Dealing with Trent is giving me a headache."
The tweet has since been deleted, but there is no indication that Davis was "joking" when he tweeted this out. "Trent" is referring to current 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. The duo has also dealt with multiple reports that Baalke was trying to trade Davis earlier in the off-season, which both have since firmly denied. It's certainly an odd situation to begin with, as Davis walked away from the sport at age 25 while still under contract and only a year removed from a very solid season.
The 49ers currently have the most cap space, according to Spotrac.com (as of July 27th, 2016) and would probably welcome back Anthony Davis with open arms. The team dealt with issues across most of the offensive line and has a major hole at right tackle, which is what Davis plays. But nevertheless, we have seen some issues potentially reveal themselves between Davis and Baalke that cause an issue if/when Davis does come back. Not to mention, Davis would be coming back to a team that has a whole new coaching staff and scheme under Chip Kelly.
While Davis is contractually obligated at the moment to the 49ers, he may be coming back in hopes of a new start with a new team that actually may be in contention for a Super Bowl ring. That would not describe San Francisco, as they are currently undergoing a re-building phase and are probably years away from playoff content in the extremely difficult NFC West.
Which brings me to the Patriots. Currently, New England has Nate Solder slotted at left tackle and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. Vollmer is 32 years old and is owed $5,208,334 in 2016. That is a higher cap hit than Davis has under his current contract, while also being six years older. Vollmer has proven to be a dependable fixture on the Patriots offensive line when healthy, but is going into the last year of his contract and is getting up there in age. The Patriots also have Marcus Cannon under contract in 2016 as their #3 offensive tackle and is owed $4,754,168. That is just under $500,000 less than what Davis would earn in 2016. Cannon graded out with a 37.7 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2015, which is an absolutely terrible grade.
Vollmer didn't fare much better as he received a 49.8 grade from PFF for his play in 2015. In the 2014 season, Davis was the 39th ranked offensive tackle and actually finished as the 13th best run-blocking tackle overall. It's not hard to imagine that a year away from football and at his still-young age that Davis could still be a solid offensive tackle in the NFL.
Going back to the money situation, the move would actually make sense for the Patriots. If they were to acquire Davis via trade, he would most likely be the team's starting right tackle (once he passed a physical and got back on the field of course) and force Sebastian Vollmer to the #3 offensive tackle spot. With that scenario, the team would have no need for Cannon and could trade/release him. The team would save more money releasing Cannon ($3,687,500 after dead cap) than Vollmer ($3,125,000 after dead cap) and Vollmer is a much more reliable offensive tackle overall.
The Patriots are in a dire cap situation at the moment as they are scheduled to be almost $8.6 million dollars over the cap come week one, but the team has found ways to make their cap situation work in the past. Not to mention (as it has in previous articles), the Patriots could also lower their 2016 cap hit by signing Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard and Malcolm Butler to contract extensions as well. Tom Brady will turn age 39 before the start of the 2016 season and needs better protection as he was sacked 38 times in 2015, good for 9th most of all NFL quarterbacks that season. If Davis is able to return anywhere close to his pre-2015 form, he would be a great upgrade at right tackle now and for the future.
Considering the 49ers have the most cap space in the NFL at the moment and have a dire need at right tackle, they are in a position to wait and see what the best offer may be for Davis and not be in a rush to trade him. It would probably cost the Patriots a third/fourth round draft pick, which New England has in both the 2017 and 2018 NFL Draft. It may be a steep price to pay for a recently un-retired offensive tackle under contract through 2020, but it would be well worth it in the short and long-term for the Patriots.
All in all, I firmly believe that trying to acquire Anthony Davis would be a smart investment for the Patriots (assuming he is healthy and ready to play in the near future). His contract is relatively cheap and has four years left on it, which is a very solid bonus. And not to mention that it was less than two years ago that Davis was playing like a top right tackle in the NFL. The 49ers may say that they want to keep him and Anthony Davis might say he is going to be with the 49ers, but it never hurts to get a price check considering the history between the two sides.