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Wednesday whys: No complaints from Rivers

Rookie contracts, uncapped year help Chargers QB. Andrew Brandt

Print This August 26, 2009, 12:59 PM EST

Why was it expected that Philip Rivers would sign a mega-contract extension prior to the start of the season?

Rivers was the other shoe to drop after the Eli Manning extension in New York. With the market set the past year and quarterbacks such as David Garrard, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Cassel receiving guaranteed money in the $20-million range, with APY(average per year) in the $10-million range, the stage was set for these two to do their deals. As the Chargers and Giants noted, there was not going to be much in the way of new comparables over the season to influence where the market might go.

The complicating factor in all negotiations now, of course, is the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement after next season, a season that presently does not include a salary cap. Were the Giants or the Chargers to allow these contracts to expire, they would face the prospect of (1) losing the player in free agency to a team with deep pockets to spend on the rarest of assets – a franchise quarterback not under contract; or (2) placing the franchise tag on the players in an uncertain environment in 2010 and – even more so – beyond.

The Chargers still have a long shopping list of their own free agents in 2010, including Shawne Merriman, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Marcus McNeill. Bringing Rivers under contract is a key first step in what could be in an interesting year ahead for the team’s fortunes and finances.

The Rivers extension lasts through 2015 and is worth $98M, with $38M guaranteed. It’s eerily similar to the recent deal for Eli Manning in APY over the first three years: $16.95 million for Manning and $16.75 million for Rivers. The guarantee amount is larger than that given to Manning and is the largest guaranteed quarterback money in the history of football, not including a QB who has yet to take a real snap in the NFL, Matthew Stafford.

Rivers can’t complain about Stafford, however. For one, Stafford’s deal probably helped his negotiation. Also, Rivers was once one of those top-pick contracts that everyone complained about, a player making more than most veterans without having played a game.

The enormity of rookie contracts has helped Manning and Rivers, not only when they were the ones with those contracts but now that they can point to the more recent ones to help their leverage.

Why has there been no discussion of extensions for the league’s two true superstar quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning?

These two players, arguably the most important players in the game, have contracts that expire not at the end of this year but at the end of next year. As they watch other players with a fraction of their accomplishments get rewarded with extensions, they have to be wondering when their time will come.

Of course, these A-list players are making top-tier money even for deals signed in 2004 (Manning, $14M average) and 2005 (Brady, $10M average). However, we need not be naïve as to the fact they’re watching an escalating market for lower-echelon players.

Having said this, my sense is that neither player will receive an extension any time soon. There’s a big difference in the present circumstances between a contract expiring after 2009, preceding an uncapped year, and a contract expiring after 2010, preceding the great unknown. As I mentioned above, with the CBA expiring after 2010 and rumblings about a lockout in 2011, teams will be hesitant to extend players expiring then, even the top players in the game. The landscape is just too uncertain right now.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles addressed their franchise quarterback, a fellow named Donovan McNabb, whose contract expires after 2010. While doing so, they did not change the fact his contract expires after 2010. That, in itself, is telling about the future of football as we sit here today, a future as uncertain as another quarterback’s future whose contract expires after 2010 (one who now plays for the Minnesota Vikings).

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Their names evoke football royalty. They, however, are watching and waiting while other quarterbacks receive big paydays. And they may be waiting a while.

Why was Larry Fitzgerald’s contract restructuring more about the moving of cash than of cap?

Fitzgerald agreed to defer some cash but actually took on more of a cap charge in 2009 in doing so.

In one of the more interesting restructures in the NFL this year, Fitzgerald agreed to take $3M of his $4.6M salary in the form of a roster bonus rather than in salary. The roster bonus has already been earned, yet the payment date is now March of 2010. Thus, Fitzgerald agreed to help the Cardinals’ cash flow by deferring until March what would have been salary paid from September to December.

The Cardinals, in consideration of Fitzgerald’s doing so, moved $150,000 from his 2010 salary into the 2009 roster bonus (also paid March 2010).

Why did the Cardinals do this? One can only assume that cash flow issues are the reason. As to the creation of cap room to ostensibly allow for an extension for Anquan Boldin or others, that is certainly not the case. Fitzgerald’s cap charge actually went up $150,000 as a result of bringing forward that amount from 2010.

An interesting twist on a contract that has been known as one of the more player-friendly deals in the league.

And now for my pet peeve Why of the Week…

Why did coach Marvin Lewis of the Bengals allow Chad Ochocinco to kick an extra point and kickoff in a preseason game last week?

This was cute and allowed for some ESPN SportsCenter moments for the Bengals. But why would Lewis encourage more attention-seeking behavior from one of the game’s true divas? Hasn’t Ochocinco had enough of putting himself in front of the team, whether through annual whining about his contract, racing horses, boxing or whatever else he’s allowed to get away with? Putting him in the game as a kicker only enables his “look-at-me” behavior in the ultimate team game.

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