Chargers and Philip Rivers Agree to $84 Million Extension

Continuing the trend of some pretty eventful offseason moves around the NFL, the Chargers have locked up quarterback Philip Rivers to the tune of $84 million and $65 million guaranteed over the next four years.

The contract, worth $21 million per year in new money, will make Rivers the highest paid quarterback in the NFL to not win a Super Bowl, the same distinction he had when he signed his last extension in 2009.  Continue reading Chargers and Philip Rivers Agree to $84 Million Extension »

The 2015 Sando/ESPN QB Tiers Project and Salaries

Mike Sando of ESPN just wrote up his 2nd annual QB tier rankings in which he polled a number of football people to rank the quarterbacks in the NFL. Mike then crunches the numbers to place players into one of four tiers. It’s a great concept and helps illustrate the various opinions that people have on players in the NFL.  And for the second straight year I’ll look at the opinions and see how they line up with salaries in the NFL.

Continue reading The 2015 Sando/ESPN QB Tiers Project and Salaries »

NFL Stock Up: Week 2


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Philip Rivers– The old guard from the 2004 draft are all entering contract periods where extensions are on the horizon and Rivers sure stated his case on Sunday as he tore up the vaunted Seahawks defense for 284 yards on over 75%completion percentage. Rivers turnaround from where he was two years ago, when he looked finished, is pretty remarkable. He’s fearless and you knew he would challenge the Seahawks this week but nobody expected this kind of performance.

DeMarco Murray– Murray had a bad fumble on Sunday but finished the day with 29 carries for 167 yards. The Cowboys are no stranger to paying big money for top talent and it almost looks as if we are seeing a changing of the guard in Dallas. Tony Romo does not look like the same player and Jason Witten has been MIA for two weeks. If Dallas is going to enter a transition period in which Romo becomes the game manager, Murray is going to benefit with big dollar signs.

Ryan Kerrigan– I don’t care that it was against the Jaguars, 4 sacks in a game is an incredible accomplishment. Kerrigan has his option picked up for next season, but with teams wisely locking up player inn the 2011 draft class he is putting himself in a great position for a new deal. Hes been incredibly steady since entering the NFL and should set a new career high in sacks this year following this game. With JJ Watt and Robert Quinn getting massive extensions, the payscale is rising for players that can rush the passer and Kerrigan should benefit.


New Contract Player Of The Week

Ted Ginn– I know it’s a strange position to take for this distinction, but in watching that game Ginn’s touchdown return changed the whole game. New York had taken control of the game, despite their mistakes, and seemed like they were wearing down the banged up Cardinals. Ginn’s return took the air out of the Giants and the Cardinals players even alluded to that after the game insinuating that the Giants were mentally beaten. You can’t have much more impact than that.



Per Brian McIntyre: Chargers Restructure Contract of Philip Rivers


According to the excellent Brian McIntyre, the Chargers restructured the contract of QB Philip Rivers, converting $5 million of his base salary into a signing bonus.

We updated our cap pages to reflect the move which should save the Chargers $3.33 million in cap room in 2013. The timing of the restructure seemed a bit odd, but the Chargers were a team that had limited cap space and likely needed more to function during the season. As our friend Ian pointed out on Twitter there were options to either add cap charges to other players expected to be with the team in future seasons or simply add a bit more dead money to a player few expect to be with the club in 2014. Rivers dead money charge in 2014 now jumps from just $1.2 million to $4.534 million, which is still a reasonable number if they were to trade Rivers.

Though cap carryover has always existed to some extent in the CBA, the new rules which carry over all unused dollars make restructures like this more or less meaningless in cap management unless followed by an accompanying move that compromises future cap years. Why is that the case?  We’ll use Rivers as the example.

Assuming that the Chargers have determined that there is a high probability of moving on from Rivers next season you have one of two scenarios. The first is that you let him play out his contract. If he did that he would count for $17.11 million in cap charges in 2013 and $1.2 million in dead money in 2014. There would be no additional carryover. Scenario two is restructuring Rivers to have an emergency fund of cap dollars to use in 2013 in the event of injuries. His new cap saves the team $3.334 million in cap in 2013. If none of that is used it is simply carried over to 2014 as an offset to the $4.534 million dead charge, bringing the real effect right back to $1.2 million. The net effect is zero, its just deferring when the team accounts for the $3.334 million.  The key is to earmark the 2013 savings only for emergency, rather than trades or un-needed extensions that do make the effects of the restructure hurt future cap years.

View Phillip Rivers Contract and Salary Cap Page

View Philip Rivers Financial Report


State of Rebuild – San Diego Chargers


How do you build a winning football team?  Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild.  The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.

TelescoState of the Franchise and Front Office

The San Diego Chargers have continued to uphold their label as one of the NFL’s biggest underachievers.  After going 13-3 in 2009, the Chargers have since failed to win 10 games or make the playoffs.  Despite going 4-2 against AFC West division opponents, the Chargers finished the 2012 season a disappointing 7-9.  While not seemingly rebuilding, the Chargers did shake up the organization after another lackluster campaign in 2012.  Tom Telesco replaces longtime General Manager A.J. Smith, while Mike McCoy replaces Norv Turner as Head Coach.


Contract Strategies and Trends

With only one offseason of data, the sample size for how new GM Tom Telesco will structure his contracts is quite small.  Under former GM A.J. Smith, the Chargers rarely structured any contracts with roster or workout bonuses, with Nick Hardwick being the only player on the roster brought in by A.J. Smith not under his rookie contract receiving a roster bonus.  Hardwick is due a $500,000 roster bonus in 2013 and 2014.  Thus far, Telesco has utilized roster bonuses much more than his predecessor.  Free Agent acquisition Derek Cox is due a $300,000 roster bonus in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as part of his 4-year/$20 million deal and Dwight Freeney is also due a roster bonus of $500,000 in 2013 and $1 million in 2014 as part of his free agency deal after Melvin Ingram went down earlier this offseason with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Freeney’s $500,000 roster bonus in 2013 and $500,000 of the $1 million dollar roster bonus in 2014 are actually per game roster bonuses of $31,250 per game.  For salary cap purposes, the roster bonus is treated as a LTBE incentive.  Because Freeney played in 14 games in 2012, his 2013 roster bonus cap hit is currently $437,500 ($31,250 x 14).  This setup is an extremely team friendly mechanism for the Chargers.  The per game roster bonus works just like a standard P5 salary except the P5 is still fully guaranteed in the event of injury or deactivation while the per game roster bonus is not.  If Freeney plays all 16 games this year, his actual cap hit will be adjusted upwards after the season to the full $500,000 ($31,250 x 16) and if he plays less than 14 games, for example 0, his cap hit will be adjusted downwards after the season to $0 ($31,250 x 0).

Telesco has also been more proactive in using workout bonuses.  Last years third round pick Brandon Taylor is the only player on the roster from the A.J. Smith era who received a workout bonus.  Under Telesco, free agent acquisitions King Dunlap and Johnny Patrick, along with rookie wideout Keenan Allen, received workout bonuses in their new deals.


Philip RiversBiggest Upcoming Roster Decision

Is Philip Rivers still the future of the Chargers?  Once regarded as one of the bright young superstars under center in the NFL, Rivers has come under increased scrutiny after back-to-back subpar seasons.  With two years and just under $31 million left on his current deal, it would appear at first that Telesco’s hands are tied with his options at quarterback.  A closer look reveals that it’s quite an easy feat to accomplish if Telesco wanted to move on from Rivers and hand pick his own quarterback after the 2013 season.  Rivers has a cap hit of $15 million in 2014 and $15.75 million in 2015 but nearly all of the money in both years is unguaranteed P5 salary.  With only a $1.2 million hit of dead money in 2014 and no dead money hit in 2015, the cap effects of moving on from Rivers after 2013 would be negligible.

However, barring a catastrophic injury or an incredibly disappointing season, I do not see the Chargers moving on from Rivers.  An inept offensive line has failed to give Rivers a clean pocket consistently or provide any sort of viable running game.  If incoming first rounder D.J. Fluker can lock down the Right Tackle position and allow Jeromey Clary who struggled at Right Tackle to help shore up the Right Guard position, the right side of the offensive line might actually become a strength of this team rather than one of its biggest weaknesses.  With the potential upgrade to even adequate offensive line play, Rivers should look more like the top-tier quarterback we are accustomed to and less like the mediocre version we have watched over the past two seasons, making Telesco’s possible decision easy.

It is worth noting that Telesco is no stranger to franchise altering quarterback decisions.  During Telesco’s first season as an area scout with the Colts in 1998, the Colts drafted now division rival quarterback Peyton Manning 1st overall and was also part of the decision making process that landed 1st overall pick Andrew Luck in Indianapolis in 2012 before Telesco joined the Chargers this year.  While I do not think Telesco ultimately moves on from Rivers after the 2013 season, it is certainly an available option.

Ryan Feder
Tulane University Law School
J.D. Candidate 2015

The Options for Falcons QB Matt Ryan


With training camp just a short time away we will be turning our attention more towards potential extensions of pending free agents. One of the most prominent, and currently in the early stages of negotiating a deal, is QB Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan is almost the perfect prospect. He was highly regarded coming out of Boston College, selected 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has been to the playoffs in 4 of his 5 seasons in  the NFL and the only year his team missed the playoffs was his second year when he was injured and missed two games, both of which the Falcons lost. His record as a starter is an impressive 56-22 and only once has he not finished with double digit wins. From a statistical standpoint he is an incredible QB and his numbers have shown a steady progression in his time in the NFL.

I don’t think that it’s even arguable that he is the best QB drafted since 2006 and in terms of being effective since day 1 you might be able to state the case that he is the best QB drafted since Tom Brady in 2001 and the best 1st round player since Peyton Manning  in 1998. Obviously that discussion includes Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger, but in terms of playing at a high level from the start he is going to be better than Manning and Roethlisberger and was as high end statistically accomplished as Rodgers in the same time frame.

Of course the one thing missing from Ryan’s resume that all of those players have is a championship. It is going to be a major factor in pricing Ryan. I think the NFL has changed a lot since the early 2000’s when Peyton was always higher regarded and paid than Brady as the debate ranged between how one guy “just wins” and the other puts up great numbers. Since then, however, winning the big one has catapulted QBs into a game of leapfrog where each players new deal becomes the largest contract in the history of the NFL. Roethlisberger set a market after winning a Super Bowl. Eli jumped him and was then in turn jumped by Brady and Manning who were jumped by Drew Brees. Joe Flacco set a new bar fresh off his Super Bowl win while Aaron Rodgers then set the new threshold soon thereafter.

The problem for Ryan is that none of these players have gotten paid before winning a Super Bowl. So where does that leave Ryan who would like to get an extension now but also does not want to sell himself short?  He absolutely has the potential to be as good statistically, especially in that stadium, as Rodgers. But Rodgers has a ring and Ryan does not. Statistically you can not even compare Ryan and Flacco, but Flacco has great playoff success while Ryan is 1-4.  So it becomes a scenario as to how much do we value playoff success versus non-playoff success.

The top QB contracts in recent times given to non-winners were Mike Vick in 2011, Matt Schaub in 2012, and Tony Romo in 2013.  While those are the most fresh contracts in everyone’s mind I don’t think any would be valid here. All were past the age of 30 at the time of signing and had no upside remaining in their games. The best QB comparison out there is Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. Rivers was the other big name of the 2004 draft class, the one who never won a championship.

Unlike Ryan he sat for two years, but once he finally got his chance he ran with it. Rivers first three years playing saw him surpass both Manning and Roethlisberger in a number of standard statistical categories. From 2006 thru 2008 here were the stat comparisons of the 3 star QB’s:










E. Manning










Rivers was throwing for more yards, far more touchdowns, and much fewer interceptions. In 2008, the year before his extension, Rivers actually led the entire NFL in YPA and TD’s. Over the timespan Rivers won 33 games compared to 30 for Manning and 29 for Roethlisberger. Rivers’ Chargers won their division three years in a row. But he didn’t have that Super Bowl, compiling a record of 3-3 and losing as a favorite in the playoffs.

Rivers looked like he should be the biggest star of the group and his production was far greater than Eli’s. But that SB ring means a lot. Manning ended up setting the market at $16.25 million a year while Rivers would sign soon for $15.3 million a year, about 6% less. Rivers was given a higher guarantee but had lower 3 and 4 year contractual values than both the Super Bowl winners making the meat of the contract worth less than that of his two contemporaries.

Rivers would go on to a number of exceptional seasons before the wheels seemed to come off starting in 2011, but he has yet to be able to win the big game. Manning won another Super Bowl and Roethlisberger appeared in yet another one.  The comparison of the 3 seems silly now because two are proven winners while Rivers has struggled and never got over the hump. Manning and Roethlisberger will likely both get mega contracts next season from their respective teams while there are questions as to whether or not Rivers will even remain in San Diego.

I think this brings up an interesting decision for Ryan. Manning’s and Roethlisberger’s original Super Bowl wins allowed them to become market setters at the position. Rodgers’ $22 million dollar extension he recently signed is now the top of the market and it had to be a disappointing figure for Ryan. Rodgers was so superior the last two years that he should have earned closer to $24 million a year considering Flacco’s $20.1 million dollar a year contract.  At that point I think it becomes easy. You sell Rodgers as the top line young winner and Flacco as the lower level setter and you fit in at the Rivers level, which would be around $22.4 million. Now if you put Rodgers as Eli and Ryan as Rivers the contract point becomes $20.57 million a year, assuming no concessions are made for Rodgers per game incentives which only lowers the number further. That has to be much lower than Ryan thought would happen.

Now to maximize his value I think Ryan is in a position where he has to sell Rodgers as a number to try to surpass. While many think of Rodgers as young he will be 30 at the end of the season and this will be his 9th year in the NFL. Its something of a limbo stage for comparison as he’s not really young but he’s also not early 30s like Brees, Manning, and Brady were when they jumped Eli in contract value.  But to get the number that Ryan probably felt he was going to get just a month or two ago he has to push using Rodgers as a baseline not a high point.

Of course to do that Ryan is going to have to play out the year and then try to force the Falcons hand in a negotiation. Ryan has a lot to gain by winning a Super Bowl before his extension. While I fully believe (and deeper stats do back this up) that Rodgers is a more productive QB than Ryan, it could be hard to separate the two if Ryan keeps up his current pace especially factoring in that Ryan is the younger player. Atlanta’s whole team is built around Ryan and his arm and, unlike the Lions and Matt Stafford, another player up for a deal, has been highly successful year in and out.

Playing the year out certainly brings along risks. The biggest is injury and as Jerry Maguire warned Rod Tidwell in the movies all those years ago “If you get injured you get nothing”. But at the QB position is that as much of a concern is it for a RB or a WR?  Probably not. QB’s are protected more than any other player and they are also not playing in the same manner that is as likely to lead to random injuries. And even if the injury was to occur would it damage the players earning potential?  I don’t think so. Carson Palmer blew out his knee in 2005 but the Bengals never walked away from his monster contract. Tom Brady had the knee injury in 2008 and ended up as one of the highest paid players in the game. Peyton Manning was signed to a mega deal while injured, missed the year, was cut and signed for an even bigger deal with another team. Even Rivers had a torn ACL in 2007 that he played through and he came back in 2008 to have the big deal that got him the big contract. The injuries had very little effect on the treatment of the players, outside of an injury protection for Manning that could have been avoided had he signed with the Titans. It’s a built in premium that teams are willing to pay.

The secondary risk lies in the application of the Franchise Tag. For the most part the tag never really happens as teams do want to keep the QB happy , but this still has to be a consideration. Atlanta’s cap situation in 2014 looks to be healthy with around $103 million committed to the 2014 salary cap and a whole roster that is filled other than at QB. The ballpark figure for a QB on the tag is going to be about $15 million with the exclusive tender coming in at $19.978 million and likely headed downward by the time next season is actually here.  So for one season they can tag Ryan and work within the cap without too much issue. If Ryan goes that route he is going to play this year for $10 million and next for less than $20, which is only an average of $15 million. In contrast Aaron Rodgers will earn $50.9 million over the next two years and Flacco $51 million. Even Romo’s $40 million payout will be far superior to Ryan’s. You can definitely damage your long term earnings taking this strategy as the extra million or two a year may not going to make up for lost wages over the next two.

Ryan’s cap hit this year is low so the Falcons don’t really have a need to get a deal done. This isn’t like the Ravens who basically could not afford to carry Flacco on a franchise tag type number.  That being said the Falcons are tight against the salary cap now and getting Ryan extended in 2013 probably helps their cap allocations over the next few years, but they can hold off if the two sides are far apart on compensation. So Atlanta might be willing to play it out as well.

Ryan has little to lose by playing and I think much to gain if he can get his team to the Super Bowl. I just don’t see the risks impacting his value greatly and his track record is so solid that at worst his value will remain the same.  There is also the chance that Manning or Roethlisberger can jump Rodgers next year as their teams may be forced to extend due to cap concerns, making the market even more lucrative than it is now.

At the worst he will be in the same position he is now. Even if he signed an extension now remember that his $10 million salary is going to be built into the contract (the new vs old money debate in contract valuations) so he is stuck at that salary being factored in under any scenario. Signing today doesn’t change that. I truly feel that if he wins a championship a strong case can and will be made that he deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL. He can’t make that argument right now. All things considered I think his is a rare situation where you are better off playing out the year than accepting a deal that you may regret in another year or two.