If this season indeed was Corey Davis’ last as a member of the Tennessee Titans, it will be remembered as his best.
The wide receiver put up the best numbers of his career and for it, he will be rewarded by some organization, likely in another NFL city, with a hefty free-agent deal.
But that does not mean the fourth-year veteran should be satisfied with how things ended. Presumably, he is not.
Through the first 15 weeks of the season, Davis emerged as a consistent and reliable wide receiver who could put up big numbers in the National Football League.
But he ended the season about as quietly as anyone on the Titans roster. He didn’t record a catch in two of his final three appearances and had just five receptions for 39 yards in the other. In Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium, Davis was physically unable to be on the field for the Titans’ final offensive possession of the game -- one that ended with an interception -- due to an undisclosed injury.
“We don’t talk about injuries,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “But clearly, if Corey was able to finish that football game, he would have. He would have tried everything that he could have done to help us win. That wasn’t going to be a possibility at that time.”
After his four-catch, 110-yard showing in Week 15, it seemed inevitable that Davis would reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. It would have been a notable milestone for him to reach, considering the Titans selected him No. 5 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and through three years he had not yet done enough to live up to the expectations that came with that draft position.
“My stomach is sick for Corey,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said in Week 17. “I really wanted him to reach his mark as well, but it doesn't take away what a season he's had. (It) doesn't really change the season he's had. … To me and this team and how he's played and what he's meant to this team this whole year, it's pretty cool.”
Davis posted a career-high in catches (65), yards (984), touchdowns (five), yards per-catch (15.1), yards per-game (70.3) and catch rate (70.3 percent). He emerged as a true complement to No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Brown who – in his second season – went over 1,000 yards again.
The 26-year-old had at least 100 yards receiving in a career-high five contests this season. He never had more than two such showings in any of his previous three seasons. The Titans went 3-2 when Davis had 100 yards this season. His best performance, however, came in a 41-35 loss to the Browns in Week 13, when he caught 11 passes (12 targets) for 182 yards and a touchdown. Nine of his catches in that effort went for 10 yards or more.
Davis didn’t credit his step forward this season to anything drastic. Asked constantly about it, he said he played with an increased level of confidence and with a free mind. He also stayed relatively healthy.
As a rookie, Davis, who battled a hamstring injury that season, played in 11 games and made 34 catches for 375 yards. He played in both of the Titans’ postseason games and scored both of the team’s touchdowns in a 35-14 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.
He played through a foot injury in 2019 and finished with 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games (11 starts). He scored a touchdown in a Divisional Round upset of the Ravens.
It’s not an accident that his second-best season to date was 2018 -- his second in the league. He played and started all 16 contests that season, leading the Titans in receptions (65), receiving yards (891) and touchdowns (4).
The Titans declined to pick up Davis’ fifth-year option this past offseason, which means he will hit the free-agent market this spring. With the season he just had, a lot of teams around the league will surely be interested in Davis’ services. He has now shown that he can be a true No. 2 and borderline No. 1 option for a quarterback. Spotrac places his market value at $9.9 million annually.
Tannehill knows that whatever comes next for Davis -- with the Titans or elsewhere -- will be well deserved. Even if the ending isn’t what anybody had in mind.
“He's been consistent for us the whole year, obviously got banged up a little bit yesterday so that played a big part in it. But I can always count on Corey (Davis),” Tannehill said. “No matter what was going on, had that trust in him, that belief. He's obviously extremely talented and made big plays for us over the course of the year.
“Didn't finish for him, or any of us, like we wanted to, but Corey (Davis) is a great player and has a bright future ahead of him.”