A Closer Look at Philip Rivers $83.25 Million Contract

We all knew that Philip Rivers and the Chargers agreed to a big contract extension this weekend, and now, via Pro Football Talk, we have the full breakdown of the contract. All told I think this is a very good contract for the Chargers who avoided the monstrous signing bonus and receive relatively favorable terms on the cash flows of the contract. The clear direct comparison for Rivers is the four year contract recently signed by Ben Roethlisberger and Rivers did get a slightly better guarantee structure, but given the position they play and bonuses given to the players those salaries are all functionally guaranteed anyway. So let’s compare the two deals.

Rivers will earn a $22.5 million signing bonus compared to a $31 million one for Ben. I find that to be a good thing for San Diego in the event that they did want to trade or move on at a later date. The Chargers kept Rivers salary essentially the same for this season which increased his cap charge by $3.75 million but will allow them to have Rivers at cap hits under $21 million in each of the final years. Here is the year by year cash comparison between the two players:

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
% Difference-8.0%-7.6%-2.2%-4.5%-4.7%

The first two year numbers are a pretty big difference between the two players. In fact if we look at all the elite contracts in terms of annual value, Rivers will be the only one to not break the $39 million barrier in the first “new money” season of the contract. the prior low was Cam Newton at $39.4 million. Rivers begins to close the gap a bit by the second year of his deal before steadying out around 4.5% less than Roethlisberger.

Identical to Roethlisberger, Rivers is eligible to receive $5 million roster bonuses early in the offseason of the final two contract years. I would expect any offer made to Eli Manning by the Giants to contain identical terms.  Manning was reported to be seeking the biggest contract in the NFL which should come as no surprise to readers of OTC.

They will argue off this contract that Eli is the more accomplished player (2 Super Bowls vs none), the more desired player (the Giants traded Rivers to obtain Manning) , and the better player. I think that last argument is a bit more difficult to make but Manning’s camp will certainly argue that Eli put up more yards, less interceptions, and just one less touchdown despite not having his full complement of receivers all season and learning a new offense. Over the last three seasons the performance has been close and if you take out the worst season for both, nearly identical. Roethlisberger’s last two seasons are better than any combo for the other two, but the Giants have already given Manning a top market contract in the past despite not being the top numbers guy.

The Giants should aim for this type of structure if they do come to an agreement. It would be beneficial to them to use the smaller signing bonus and try to backload the contract  bit compared to the market. If the annual value becomes a major hangup I would recommend using a five year extension. That fifth year would essentially have no chance of being earned but can pull the number over the top while having cash flows a bit more in line with his statistical peers.