With their season circling the drain, the San Francisco 49ers elected to move one of their veteran players, trading tight end Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos.
The 49ers will swap sixth- and seventh-round picks with the Broncos this year, and will get Denver’s sixth-round pick in 2017, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Broncos general manager John Elway confirmed the trade in a Tweet, saying Davis will be a “valuable addition to our team with his experience and leadership.”
Davis has spent his entire career with the 49ers since becoming a first round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. The 31-year-old is in the final year of his contract and set to be a free agent in 2016, so the trade is more of a rental for the Broncos. The 49ers are trying to get younger after a tumultuous offseason sent them into a premature rebuild.
Davis is a gifted athlete at 6’3, 250 pounds, but consistency has been one of his weaknesses. Perhaps his best season came in 2009, when he caught 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. Davis also grabbed 13 touchdowns in 2013.
Davis sought a new contract before the 2014 season and held out of training camp. He ended his holdout without a new deal and ended up having the worst year of his career, getting just 26 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games. Davis has been dealing with a knee injury this season and missed two games before the 49ers traded him.
Davis was the longest-tenured 49ers player, a title that now belongs to left tackle Joe Staley.
The Broncos have been searching for help at the tight end position since Julius Thomas departed in free agency this offseason. Thomas joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the top tight ends on Denver’s depth chart are Owen Daniels and Virgil Green. Daniels has just 17 receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Green has six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Last season, Thomas was a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and he caught 12 touchdowns while putting up 489 yards. Davis has been considered a similar tall task for defenses to cover, especially with a linebacker, but he’s definitely in the latter stages of his career. The Broncos are hoping that Peyton Manning can get something out of him as they continue their undefeated season.