In the most important season of his career, with a contract expiring at season’s end, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis is producing at a level that is sure to catch the eyes of a handful of NFL teams this offseason.

On May 1, 2020, after Davis’ third season in Tennessee, the Titans elected to decline a fifth-year option, which would have carried the steep price of $15.68 million in 2021. After drafted Davis fifth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Titans had not seen the type of productivity to come remotely close to what a team expects out of a player drafted so high.

The pressure was clearly affecting Davis, especially with a quarterback who struggled to consistently throw the ball at any level in the field. None of that matters though, as Davis constantly walks around with a receipt hanging out of his pocket from the 2017 Draft as a former first-round pick and a top-5 selection, at that.

Fast forward to the present. Davis, in a contract year, is leading Titans receivers with 53 catches and 801 yards to go along with four 100-yard games this season. With four games left to play in the season, Davis is on pace to total a career-high 1,068 receiving yards, which is sure to come with a lucrative second contract – whether it is from the Titans, or elsewhere.

When looking through the past two off-seasons, there are four receivers that Davis’ contract situation can compare to.

DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins

With Davis nearing the end of his fourth season in the NFL, Parker’s contract situation with the Dolphins last season might be the most comparable to the Titans pass catcher. After being selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dolphins decided to pick up Parker’s fifth-year option for the 2019 season.

This decision came after four years of mild production, to be generous, where Parker accumulated 2,217 yards and nine touchdowns. With four games remaining in Davis’ fourth year in the league, the wide receiver from Western Michigan currently sits at 2,668 yards and eight touchdowns.

But it was Parker’s contract year where he exploded for career highs in catches (72), yards (1,202), and touchdowns (9). This season earned Parker a four-year extension worth $40 million including $21.5 million in guarantees. Davis is experiencing a similar breakout season in a contract year that might net somewhere around the $10 million average annual salary that Parker was rewarded with.

Sterling Shepard – New York Giants

After being taken with the 40th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft,  Shepard’s first four years in the NFL were viewed in the same light as Davis heading into this season — not a No. 1 wide receiver, but a valuable piece to the offense.

In April of 2019, Shepard was inked to a four-year extension worth $41 million, including just over $21 million in guarantees after four seasons with the Giants. Through four years with New York, Shepard produced in the fashion of 2,862 yards with 17 touchdowns.

See a pattern developing?

Robby Anderson – Carolina Panthers

Anderson is in the middle of his first season with the Carolina Panthers after a four-year tenure with the New York Jets. Unlike Davis, Parker, or Shepard, Anderson went undrafted out of college and came into the league in 2016.

However, Anderson shared the same misfortune as the other three by playing on the outside with shoddy quarterback play. That still didn’t stop Anderson from finding the endzone 20 times while hauling in 207 catches for 3,059 yards. But the Jets let their most dangerous weapon and best deep threat walk away after four seasons.

A Panthers team with a rebuild mindset took note of Anderson’s early success and signed the promising big-play receiver to a two-year contract worth $20 million, which includes $12 million guaranteed.

Salary Cap Uncertainty

Recent history has provided enough examples to come to the conclusion that Corey Davis’ next contract will likely be in the same zip code of the $10 million average annual value that was common in all three of the other receivers’ second deals.

However, Davis might be at a disadvantage this offseason. According to Over The Cap, the 2021 NFL salary cap is estimated to be $176 million. That is a decrease of $22.1 million (11.2%) from the 2020 season.

But the salary cap is just one of the variables that is included in this Corey Davis equation.

Davis appears to be the Titans No. 2 receiver going forward, will he accept his role in the team’s offense, or will he want a shot elsewhere to prove that he is capable of leading a receiving corps like many NFL teams thought he could in 2017?

It is Davis who ultimately controls his own destiny.


Featured Image courtesy of Getty Images
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