Projecting the best 30-and-over player in my division by the start of the 2014 season.
A quick look through NFC West rosters showed 112 players already in their 30s or scheduled to turn 30 by the first month of the 2014 season.
Larry Fitzgerald and Vernon Davis stood out right away as the ones best positioned to excel at that time. Some of the others with name recognition -- Matt Hasselbeck, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Lofa Tatupu, Marcus Trufant -- could be wearing down or out of the league by then.
I'll focus on Davis here because his contract runs through the 2015 season. Fitzgerald's deal runs only through 2011, making him more likely than Davis to depart the NFC West before 2014. Several factors point to sustained production for Davis:
Davis could lose a step or two and still rank among the most athletic tight ends of his generation.
The 49ers' quarterback play and offensive scheming figure to improve over the next few seasons. Davis, who has 20 touchdown receptions over the past two seasons after an underwhelming start to his career, stands to benefit.
Coach Jim Harbaugh values tight ends.
Davis' work ethic has always been there. He has matured considerably and that will continue as he ages.
Fitzgerald would overtake Davis as my leading candidate if the Cardinals re-signed him to a long-term agreement. His talent and work ethic should allow him to produce well into his 30s.