49ers tackle Anthony Davis announced today that he was stepping away from the NFL for the time being to allow his body and mind to heal. It’s a stunning retirement as Davis is just 25 years old and arguably in the prime of his career. This marks the third 49er to abruptly retire as Davis joins Chris Borland and Patrick Willis on the surprise retirement list. Justin Smith also recently retired but that was somewhat expected. Davis had signed a $6.52 million contract extension in 2013 and his remaining bonus money will likely need to be paid back to the 49ers.
Davis was the 11th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft and signed a contract worth a potential $26.5 million as a rookie that would have run through 2015. The 49ers saw enough in Davis to extend him in 2013, paying him a $7.5 million signing bonus and $17 million guaranteed on a contract that was to run through the 2019 season. Davis will trigger forfeiture provisions in his contract that can allow the 49ers to collect $4.5 million of his 2013 signing bonus and $166,170 of his rookie signing bonus. His $1.8 million option proration should be protected from forfeiture.
Davis was set to count on the salary cap this year for $5,591,670. Once the 49ers officially process his retirement his salary cap charge this year will be $3,366,670. There will also be a $3 million cap charge for Davis on the books in 2016 due to acceleration of bonus money. The team will gain about $2.2 million this year on the cap with his retirement ($1.7 million once you factor in the replacement cost) and $2.15 million next year.
If the 49ers ask for the return of his bonus money, which would seem likely, they would receive a salary cap credit of about $1.5 million starting in 2016 and again in 2017 amd 2018. The CBA allows a team to recover future money on June 1 of each League Year which is why there would be a delay in credits unless he paid a lump sum as another agreement.
Davis’ contract was filled with de-escalators based on making weight, attending workouts, and achieving 50% playtime. Per a league source his salary had already de-escalated $500,000 due to lack of playing time in 2014, which happened because of injury, and was set to lose more due to weight issues. Had he not attended 90% of the team workouts this year he would have lost another $250,000 in salary, which may have been probable.
It’s a bit strange to see so many players on the 49ers team retiring when nobody else around the NFL is doing it. San Francisco may put more pressure than any team in the NFL on players to earn their money by actually being healthy which I guess could be a reason, though that is nothing more than a guess on my part. Davis had $1 million in salary tied to being active on Sunday, which can’t happen if you land on IR or are not fit to play. There are other teams who have similar clauses for players, but San Francisco probably has the highest numbers in the NFL.