Could this be Philip Rivers' last year with the San Diego Chargers?

Donald Miralle

Philip Rivers will need to prove himself to be an elite Quarterback in 2013 if he hopes to stay in San Diego with the Chargers, because his contract pays him like one.

$13.8 million dollars. That is how much this season is worth for Philip Rivers. That and his legacy as a Quarterback in the NFL.

Allow me to explain.

Philip Rivers, starting Quarterback for the San Diego Chargers that haven't made the playoffs since 2009, will make $13.2 million this year, as part of a 7-year, $98.25 million contract that he signed with the Chargers after making the playoffs in each of his first three seasons as the starter. If the team were to release him before the season (which they won't), they would save $10.8 million in cap space.

Looking at his stats alone, one would assume that Philip Rivers was a Quarterback in decline.

  • He hasn't had a QB Rating above 88 since 2010.
  • He hasn't had a QBR above 63 since 2009, and has only been above 70 once in his career.
  • He has turned the ball over 47 times in his last 32 regular season games.

By comparison...

  • Peyton Manning has had a QB rating below 88 just twice in 15 seasons. He's had a QBR over 80 twice in the five seasons since ESPN created the stat. He's turned the ball over 31 times in his last 32 regular season games.
  • Tom Brady has had a QB rating below 88 just once since 2003. He's never had a QBR below 65 and his QBR has been over 70 for the last three seasons. He's turned the ball over 22 times in his last 32 regular season games.
  • Drew Brees has not had a QB rating below 88 since 2003. He's never had a QBR below 64 and his QBR has been over 70 twice in the five seasons that it has existed as a stat. He's turned the ball over 35 times in his last 32 regular season games.

There. Now we can get past the "Is Philip Rivers elite?" conversation. If he was, he's not anymore...or, at the very least, he hasn't been since signing his extension. Whether or not he could get back to that place with a new offensive line and a new offensive coach is what will determine his future.

Let's get back to that contract. El Capitan is due $30.75 million for the remaining two years after this upcoming season. A.J. Smith was smart enough to build in a back-door into this contract in case Rivers wasn't worth more than $15 million a year at 32 years old, which is why the team can release Philip next year and face a cap hit of just $1.2 million. That's a savings of $13.8 million in cap space in 2014, and $15.75 million in cap space in 2015. That's cap savings that could go towards extending Donald Butler, Corey Liuget (FA after 2014), or simply adding free agents.

Elite Quarterbacks (think Peyton Manning) are worth the money they're paid because they can carry bad teams on their back into the playoffs. Good Quarterbacks (think Joe Flacco) are a luxury, something to get your team over the top when the running game and defense are already good. If Philip Rivers can't prove himself to be anything more than a "good" Quarterback in 2013, I don't see any way that the Chargers honor the remainder of the contract extension he signed in 2009.

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