On the surface, the addition of Vernon Davis for the Denver Broncos seems like a pretty average trade-deadline move, even though mostly none are made on an annual basis.
The Broncos – on paper – acquired a ‘once great’ pass catching tight end and former first round pick who has always been known for his freakish physical prowess and speed. For the last two seasons, he hasn’t been anything near what he was at his peak with the 49ers, which was a player that caught 13 touchdown passes in a season and helped lead them to a Super Bowl appearance.
John Elway basically took Davis off of the 49ers hands, swapping picks in this year’s draft and offering up a pick in next year’s draft to get him, which is contingent upon the Broncos’ future plans with Davis anyway.
At best, you figure the 49ers will move up 10-12 spots from the beginning of the 7th round to the end of the 6th round, and the Broncos will have a compensatory pick or two in there to work with as well.
Like I said, on the surface, this is a glorified mid-season free agent signing for John Elway and it seems like most people think Vernon Davis was past his prime, or something like that.
But this move goes so much deeper. This move gives the Broncos a weapon they desperately needed, and it also has an affect on every single player currently on the roster. Let’s talk about it.
The Julius Thomas effect
When Julius Thomas was in the lineup for the Denver Broncos from 2013-2014, he was an absolute monster. A mismatch unlike any player in the league save for Rob Gronkowski and — at the time — Jimmy Graham. He was among the league’s best at providing an outlet on third downs as well as in the red zone, where the Broncos were smoking hot in their record-setting year of offensive production in 2013.
Thomas was a huge addition to the offense and to Peyton Manning.
If there’s one thing I have noticed this year from the Broncos’ offense — the dominant performance against the Packers aside for just a moment — it’s been the lack of athleticism at the tight end position. I know Virgil Green was a Combine warrior, just hear me out.
The scenario is a 3rd-and-7, and the Broncos are trying to get the ball to Owen Daniels, but they can’t because he’s got a linebacker draped all over him, or a safety coming in for some help and Daniels just can’t separate. He’s not quick enough in the short-intermediate space to shake off even linebackers or safeties to give Manning an outlet on third down when Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are well-covered.
Why not bracket coverage on the two most talented guys on the field when you can put a linebacker one-on-one against the safety valve and succeed a majority of the time?
That’s what teams have been doing, and it’s been working — mostly.
Daniels has been unable to separate in a lot of critical positions, including on third downs and in the red zone, where the Broncos have been abysmal most of this season. Vernon Davis comes in and changes that, because of his athletic ability and ability to separate. He can work the seam against linebackers and safeties. He can use his quickness to shake off defenders before and after the catch.
Even at his age, Davis is a major athletic upgrade from what the Broncos have been using at the tight end spot.
Vernon Davis brings a presence to the Broncos’ locker room that is important for a variety of reasons, but the one I want to touch on right here is his playoff experience.
Davis has been to the NFC Championship game multiple times. He’s won in this league. He knows the kind of work it takes to get it done. He knows the sacrifice that has to be made in order to make the necessary plays to win games when it matters.
He brings an element of experience to the tight end spot that some others in this league simply can’t.
This can happen in any locker room, but you always wonder what it looks like to make a trade mid-season and whether or not it can have an adverse effect on your team’s morale. This trade is excellent for team morale. Davis is a spark-plug personality who brings a new vibrance to the Broncos’ locker room, and gives everyone a fresh motivation for what they do.
When your GM goes out and makes a trade for a guy like Vernon Davis, regardless of where he’s at in his career or what he offers, you get the sense as a player that from the top to the bottom of the organization, everyone is serious about a championship run.
We’ll call it a rejuvenated motivation.
Bringing on a player of Davis’ pedigree is an indication that the time is now.
I love the trade
I know the Broncos and their fans would have loved to have seen Joe Thomas in orange and blue, but to come away from the trade deadline with Vernon Davis and really nothing major lost is a huge win in my opinion. He adds the athleticism this team has lacked, he brings playoff experience, and he gives the team a rejuvenated motivation toward their ultimate goal — winning a Super Bowl.
In other words: John Elway is the best.