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  Is Davis at Risk of a Holdout?
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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With the start of camp rapidly approaching (August 1), Miami Dolphins first round pick Vontae Davis remains unsigned. This seems to be the norm across the NFL, with only 4 of the 32 first rounders under contract as of this writing.


So no worries, right?




Agents typically rely on the contracts of players drafted above and below their clients to help set the parameters for a deal in terms of salary, bonus, and term.


As of this writing, the closest signed player to Davis is Clevelandís Alex Mack (#21). Mack is a center. Davis, taken 25th, is a cornerback. This means that setting comparables off of Mackís contract would be a bit of a reach.


With so many players still unsigned just days away from the start of training camp, it is difficult to see how the right chips will fall into place in time for Davis to avoid a holdout.


But thereís more to consider here.


With the NFLís labor situation on the brink of potential chaos, agents could be posturing for terms that will best serve their clients should the rules of the game be turned on their proverbial ear. Remember that, in May of 2008, owners decided to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. This would mean that the 2010 season would not have a salary cap limit and that a work stoppage in 2011 would be imminent unless a new agreement is reached beforehand.


Therefore, long term deals are not necessarily in a rookieís best interest at the present time. Teams, on the other hand, would like to avoid doing short term rookie deals as they could have adverse consequences down the road. These two positions are not easily reconciled.


Another potential complication in getting Davis into camp on time is his agent, Todd France.


Four years ago, France locked up with the Dolphins over Ronnie Brownís rookie contract. The stalemate resulted in a damaging holdout for Brown that severely impacted his rookie season.


Admitted Brown in regards to his 2005 holdout, ďUnfortunately I missed camp and I think that slowed me down a little bitĒ.


Actually, it slowed him down a lot. Brown didnít get rolling on offense until late September, and was a part-timer for the rest of the season. In fact, if it werenít for Ricky Williams, the 2005 Dolphins (9-7) wouldnít have finished above .500.


Interestingly, France hasnít had another first round client since that fiasco four seasons ago. Yet he is back in 2009 with three first round clients, the highest being DE/LB Larry English (#16, Chargers). No doubt France had to make some big promises in order to sign English, Davis, and WR Kenny Britt (#30, Titans).


Now he has to show them the money.


When one considers the current lack of salary parameters, the looming CBA issue, and Franceís history with the Dolphins, thereís concern that Davis might be a holdout.


This we know: the Dolphins cannot afford for Davis to be tardy. They are thin at cornerback and are counting on him to help shore up their secondary, perhaps even to start opposite Will Allen. This means that he needs to be in camp, like yesterday, working on his conditioning and his learning.


As is always the case with rookies, Davis needs an abundance of both. He looked lost at times during coverage drills in the recent OTAs. His conditioning also didnít seem to be up to NFL and South Florida standards.


Neither of these issues is uncommon with rookies, and both are correctable with hard work under the supervision of Dolphin coaches. The Dolphins donít want to waste one minute in getting Davis, the top rated corner in the draft, onto the field; he has all the tools to be a good player for years to come.


Fortunately, they hedged their bets by drafting Utahís Sean Smith with the second of the team's two second-round selections in the 2009 draft. Both he and Davis got some snaps with the first team defense during the OTAs, which indicates that they feel good about where Smith is relative to Davis. Signed last week to a reported 4 year, $3.1 million deal, Smithís development will continue.


Davis, unsigned, remains on hold.


This is what happened to Brown in 2005. Yet if Brown made a rookie mistake, they could just line up and run the next play. If Davis makes a mistake versus the likes of Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, itís six points for the other team.


This is why history is against the success of rookie corners that are late to camp, especially in todayís NFL; swimming in playbook terminology, thinking instead of reacting, is a recipe for disaster.


Realistically, a tardy Davis would probably have to be relegated to playing strictly in spot situations and on special teams for 2009. They simply couldnít trust him with more.


This is not what the Dolphins had in mind when they drafted him. Yet this is the fate that likely waits if his contract situation isnít settled, and soon.


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