Rivers, Chargers continue to do an apparent contract mating dance


One month and two days ago, jarring news emerged from San Diego:  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he has no plans to extend his contract before it expires after the current season — and that he has real concerns about moving his family to Los Angeles.  Coupled with the team’s decision to take a closer look at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the facts quickly and naturally led to speculation that the Chargers could trade Rivers to Tennessee for the second overall pick in the draft.

While the story and its potential implications failed to quickly resonate on a widespread basis, the media gradually has recognized the significance of the story.  Left unexplored, however, is the notion that the story is more about laying the foundation for a new contract than it is about Rivers ending his career with a team other than the Chargers.

As one well-connected source explained it to PFT within the past two weeks, far more likely than an imminent divorce between Rivers and the Chargers is the likelihood that player and team have launched a mating dance aimed at getting him signed beyond 2015.  Rivers knows, if the Chargers move to L.A., that he’ll instantly have more value to a team that will be trying to win hearts, minds, and wallets in the nation’s No. 2 market — possibly in direct competition with the Rams or the Raiders.  The Chargers know it, too, but they also know that they won’t be getting extra salary-cap space to accommodate a player’s belief that he has more value to a team in L.A. than he does in San Diego, no matter how accurate that belief is.

Let’s consider one of the first quotes from Rivers, assuming that he’s not thinking about leaving but about leverage.

“I guess things could change, but with all the uncertainty in many aspects, I don’t see it changing before camp gets here, and when camp gets here I’m even more certain to play it out,” Rivers told Acee only four days after the Steelers gave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a massive, market-value contract.

“Things could change,” Rivers conceded.  But if things don’t change before camp opens, he’s not negotiating a new contract.  In other words (possibly), if the Chargers give Rivers what he wants on a new deal before training camp, he’ll sign on the dotted line.

In more than a month, not much has developed in the way of potential suitors for Rivers.  Some have suggested that he’d be worth two first-round draft picks, a package that a franchise desperate for a franchise quarterback should be willing to instantly sacrifice.

Without a long-term deal, however, it would be a one-year rental with the availability of the franchise tag thereafter.  Besides, while a team like the Browns could be gung-ho about the possibility of adding Rivers to the very long list of starting quarterbacks since 1999, Rivers may have no interest in playing for the Browns or any other team that resides a long way from the land of contention.

Some have suggested Rivers wants out because of the quality of the team around him.  But what other team out there is a high-end quarterback away from instantly contending for a Super Bowl?  Maybe the Texans, possibly the Bills.  Neither team’s name has come up — at all — in the past 33 days. For the most part, the teams that would be most interested in Rivers don’t have the kind of supporting cast that would help him get to where he never has been.

Which brings us back to the Titans.  Apart from Nashville’s proximity to his hometown, why would Rivers want to play for Tennessee?  Arguably, they’re improving on defense with the arrival of Dick LeBeau and several free agents, but they’ve got a long way to go on both sides of the ball to become competitive in the AFC South, and in the AFC generally.

From the Chargers’ perspective, how can they trade Rivers without getting a potential franchise quarterback in return?  That’s possibly why the Chargers have created the impression that they would be interested in trading Rivers to the Titans.  With the second overall pick, the Titans would be guaranteed to get a possible Rivers replacement.

Some wonder whether the end game for the Titans isn’t Mariota but Jameis Winston, with a Rivers deal getting them to No. 2 and then another deal getting them to No. 1.

Moving up to one of the first two picks becomes dangerous territory for the Chargers, who know a thing or two about using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback.  In 1998, they climbed up one spot to get in striking distance for Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf.  The Colts took Manning, the Chargers took Leaf, and the rest is a very ugly period in San Diego history.

Still, if the Chargers were intent on trading up to No. 2, it could have been accomplished by now. Rivers would need a new contract in Tennessee, but his agent represents Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt and Titans G.M. Ruston Webster.  Which means that getting Rivers signed over the long haul in Tennessee arguably would be the easiest part of this process.  The real question is whether the Chargers truly want to move Rivers, and whether Rivers truly wants to move to a new team.

The fact that more than a month has passed since the story first hit the NFL’s radar screen without anything tangible happening suggests that contract leverage remains the major part of the equation.  Why else would writers in San Diego now be talking about Rivers retiring in lieu of moving to Los Angeles?  With no serious trade discussions happening (yet) and the Chargers not throwing a huge pile of money at Rivers, his other potential ammunition for getting the team’s attention comes from the School of Favre.

Whether it’s Rivers, Mariota, or someone else, the Chargers can’t go to Los Angeles in 2016 without a franchise quarterback.  The team knows it, Rivers knows it.  But there’s currently no reason to credibly believe the Chargers plan to roll the dice on an unproven rookie and there’s currently no reason to credibly believe Rivers wants to roll the dice on an unproven team.

If both sides were willing to do that, the dice would have been rolling by now.

44 responses to “Rivers, Chargers continue to do an apparent contract mating dance

  1. Rivers = Marino.

    Great regular season QB, but watches football games in January on his home TV.

  2. That Eli Manning for Philip Rivers trade looks better and better as time passes.

  3. The problem is, after a mating dance someone invariably gets screwed. Methinks it’ll be the Chargers this time. Rivers has leverage.

  4. Man, that was a really long way of saying that Rivers will be getting a new contract soon.

  5. “Still, if the Chargers were intent on trading up to No. 2, it could have been accomplished by now.”

    I asked the same question a few days. Why not now? Why wait for the draft?
    I asked this in a tweet to Kevin Acee.

    He replied, ” For one thing, the Titans don’t have the first pick. No guarantee Mariota will be available.”

  6. Still not sure why Tampa Bay isn’t being mentioned as a trade partner. Rivers is clearly better than both top quarterbacks, that are coming out and the need is there.

  7. No way he’s getting traded, unless the chargers think they are in rebuild mode. In that siutaution, you make it work. You don’t trade a proven QB for 1 of 2 QBs who both have a ton of question marks, not to mention the fact that neither of them has played a single NFL snap. If anything, keep rivers and draft Brett Hundley or Garrett Grayson later in the draft. If you cant get a deal done in the next year, you’ve got a solid guy who sat a year and didn’t get thrown in the fire.

  8. rivers is overrated. big ben with his 2 rings is head and shoulders above rivers. rivers playoff presence is limited and chargers never seem to go anywhere if they get in. they are known more so for choking late in reg season and NO T getting in. and during rivers’ tenure the afc west has overall been weak.

    what’s the big deal with this guy ?

  9. If a team is a quarterback away from contending for a title, dealing for a 34-year old makes sense. Tennessee really is too far away from contending that this doesn’t make sense.

  10. I hope the Browns trade for him. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play. I would not give up both 1st rounders this year for him though. Browns have the best OL of QB needy teams. That would count for something if I was a QB.

  11. A team moving to LA with Mariota will be a bigger draw than a team moving to LA with a then 35 year old QB who is in the twilight of his career.

  12. Chargers are famous for letting franchise players go to other teams where they find more success. Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Drew Brees etc…
    Hope they are smart enough to keep Rivers a Bolt. Rivers has been our best player for years.

  13. Rivers is from Alabama, played college ball in North Carolina, & if you’ve ever seen him dress you know he is a Southern boy. He has 7 children and his family is Catholic. Now we know why he doesn’t want to play in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him force his way onto a Southern team.

    Texas: Houston Texans (Do they even have a starter?) & Dallas (Romo’s back remember)

    Tennessee: Titans have an unknown at QB and home is right next door.

  14. The only difference between Rivers, Roethisberger and Eli is 2SB’s that were won because of superior defenses.

    Anyone who disagrees is a delusional homer.

  15. A trade for a 34 year old QB only would make sense for the Bills, maybe the Texans. He would instantly make Buffalo, and possibly Houston, championship contenders right now. The other QB needy teams are too far away with the rest of their roster for this trade to make any sense for them.

  16. Rivers is a franchise QB, his stats are sorta comparable to Brady (minus the hardware and 50TD season) so he’s definitely worth a pretty penny, but what kind of contract is he looking for from the Chargers? Because Rivers is 33 this could very well be his last huge contract, so given that and his many years in San Diego, I think it’s possible he feels betrayed/jerked around. Rivers is a fighter out there– heck, the guy typically throws 30TDs, and always posts a high comp. percentage (66% last year).

    That said, I believe he did himself a disservice by intimating that he wasn’t interested in relocating his family. At 33 he’s realistically looking at a 3-5 year contract for a team that will have to pay him a fortune (more than what the Chargers will…) and hope he isn’t malcontent not being where he’d actually prefer. Plus another team would have to trade high picks for him.

    Given that, I’m not surprised teams aren’t interested, despite his franchise QB numbers.

  17. I would still trade for Philip Rivers if I had the chance and my team had no QB.

    Jets: Good D (D-line and good secondary again), two solid receivers, decent O-line. Could be a Wild Card team with Rivers.

    Bucs: Does not get mentioned enough, but in a really bad division (arguably, the worst in football) adding Rivers could help them win the division. He could be their best QB since Steve Young.

    Titans: A weak division, could become a Wild Card team in the AFC. Give Whisenhunt a chance. The Patriots were bad in Belichick’s first year.

    Texans: Amazing D-Line (Clowney, Wilfork, Watt), decent receiver (Hopkins), good O-line. Could be a Wild Card contender.

    Bills: Could be really good with Rivers. Not sure if they have enough draft picks to trade for him, though.

  18. As an aside, the San Diego ex-jock buffoons who do the morning drive sports-talk radio recently said, “Rivers has stated he wants to retire in Nashville.” Huh? Did anyone else hear this? (Gawd, why do I continue to listen to them?)

  19. “Some have suggested that he’d be worth two first-round draft picks”

    The only team and city desperate enough to give up 2 1st round draft picks is the Buffalo Bills, but they’re desperate every year and don’t have any 1st picks this year.

    Buffalo, 100 years of futility.

    55 years for the Bills
    45 years for the Sabres.

  20. Bronco fan here. I really respect Rivers. He is a different cat. Family, God, and then football. If anybody thinks his retirement call is a bluff, you haven’t been paying attention to the man.
    Why would the Titan’s trade for him? The Titans are slumping with the local fan base, bigtime. Rivers would give the organization instant credibility and ticket sales. Most importantly, he gives the fans hope.
    Take Rivers out of the equation. If the Bolts had the 2nd pick, would they happily take Mariota? In a heartbeat!
    Makes a lot of sense to me. Soooo…… It will never happen.

  21. I am not sure why we look solely at the sport implications of employment for athletes. Rivers may have recognized basic economics and his own situation. California’s income tax rate of 13.3% is 7.3% higher than in Tennessee (6%). The cost of living in San Diego is at least 33% higher than in Nashville. To make the same effective salary, Rivers would need to earn 40% more in San Diego than he would in Nashville. Then there are the family, educational costs for his seven children and after career considerations which likely favor the Southeast of the US. Maybe he’s just a very smart man.

  22. “Buffalo, 100 years of futility.”

    At least they play real football there and not some girly-girl Canadian joke of a game.

  23. Good people, families in Cleveland. Phil, hope you can orchestrate a trade to there.

  24. I think it’s a combination of
    #1, The Chargers are a mediocre team and management has not added the pieces to make it a contender.
    #2, Rivers wants a shot at a SB ring and it’s unlikely unless they add better players. They haven’t drafted well, and did little in free agency to add critical pieces.
    #3, California is taxing the hell out of high income earners.
    #4, Rivers wants a $20 million salary like the other top QB’s.

  25. Even with 7 kids and their future educations, I’m sure money is not an issue for Rivers, nor will it ever be. I suspect his garage is not filled with numerous cars nor his house, with unnecessary bling.

    I don’t believe his recent talk is that of a leverage ploy. It’s Philip Rivers. I think he’s just being honest. He doesn’t want to transplant his fine family to the hell hole that is LA. If the Chargers are dead set on moving, and it sure seems like they are from this season ticket holder’s perspective, Rivers won’t be going with them, or to anyone else.

    As a likely soon-to-be former charger fan, I won’t be going with them either. It’s more about the SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, than it’s ever been about the CHARGERS or general fandom. I’m sure some fans will not understand that, and that’s fine by me, and good for the game’s economics frankly.

  26. 3 way trade. Bengals send Dalton and a first rounder to Tennessee for the second pick, which trade to San Diego for Rivers. Rivers has his cast, Bengals drop their liability, and the Chargers get their franchise QB. Everyone is happy. Except the Titans because they have Andy Dalton. But they can always drive a few hours up North to see a football game.

  27. If you need a good backup QB…
    Give Vince Young a chance.. He wouldn’t cost a lot and He can still play at a HIGH level….
    His career won/loss record is 31-19… He’s a 2 time Pro-Bowler with playoff experience… He was voted 2006 NFL Rookie of the Year….. The NFL is all about “WINS and LOSSES”…. and this guy WINS…. There is a big difference between Perception and Reality.
    If you need a good backup QB… Bring in this guy and judge him as such.. A backup…

  28. The Chargers are just so annoying. Please don’t talk about them. Look at all that you wrote up there, I don’t know what it says. Nobody cares.

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