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Philip Rivers will not be traded by the San Diego Chargers

This season is the most important in the career of Philip Rivers, regardless of if he plays well or not. If not, though, could the San Diego Chargers trade him? Probably not.

Jeff Gross

"Chargers twitter" is a real thing. I know many of you think it's not, but it is. What is it? Well, it's basically a group of hardcore fans of the San Diego Chargers that happen to be addicted to twitter and therefore end up tweeting at each other on a fairly regular basis on inane topics regarding the team. During the off season, Chargers twitter is awful. During the preseason, it ranges from really great and informative to way worse than it could ever get during the offseason.

After writing the post in which I compared Philip Rivers to Drew Bledsoe, those that are good planners wanted to talk about what could happen next offseason. They took to twitter. I did my best to explain, but kept running out of characters. I promised to write a full post explaining my view of the situation Philip Rivers and the Chargers could face next offseason. This is that post.

The situation

Rivers is set to be paid about $31 million over the final two years of his contract, with almost no cap penalty if he's released (Thank you, A.J. Smith?). He's the 5th highest paid QB this year and is set to be the 10th highest paid QB next year. He needs to prove that he's at least the 10th best QB in the league this season if Tom Telesco is to give any thought to letting him play out the remainder of his contract.

Now, let's pretend that we are the team's General Manager and let's assume that Philip has his third consecutive poor season with the Chargers (which, technically, would give him four good years of starting and four bad years of starting) and turns 32 this December. That's not a guy we'd want to pay $15 million per year to if we don't have to, right? Right. So, what are our options?

Contract renegotiation

The thing about renegotiating a contract is that you do it for one of two reasons:

  1. The player was being paid under fair market value, and you want to extend the length of the deal.
  2. The player has agreed to be paid under fair market value in exchange for up front cash and a salary that's guaranteed well past his "prime".

The first one won't be happening here. Even if Rivers has a great season, the result will be something to effect of "Oh, cool, we're already paying you like a great QB. So, keep it up."

The second one is possible but tricky. Every so often, if you're reading between the lines, you'll hear Philip blaming the players around him. The offensive line hasn't been great. The running game hasn't done much. The receivers aren't really there anymore. In the same breath, he'll tell you how much he loves Norv Turner. If Rivers has a bad season in 2013, what makes any of us think that he'll want to stay in San Diego, playing in this system and with this offensive line in front of him, for less that fair market value?

I suspect, if Rivers has a bad season in San Diego in 2013, he'll be able to get more money elsewhere. The belief will be that if you put him on a team with a good offensive line that throws the ball downfield, he'll return to his old Pro Bowl form. Don't you think teams like Tampa Bay (who have Vincent Jackson) and Cleveland (who have Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski) might be looking for a guy like that next offseason?

I mentioned this on Twitter, and many of Rivers' fans replied with "He'll restructure with the Chargers because he's a family man who drives a van and a pickup truck." No, seriously, I'm not making that up. Someone tweeted that at me.

I'm not saying Philip Rivers is a flashy man. I'm saying that he, like every professional athlete, knows that the money he makes now will have to support him and his (large) family for the rest of his life. It's not as if he can just hope to have great health in his senior citizen days either, being an ex-NFL player. The fact that he drives a van should tell you how smart Philip is and how conservative he is with money. He's smart enough to not leave millions of dollars on the table, not to mention a chance to play in a system he believes fits his abilities better and that could extend his career, just because he doesn't want to disappoint Chargers fans.

Put yourself in Philip Rivers' hypothetical shoes. If you have a bad 2013 season, and then next offseason you're getting calls from several teams that are loaded with talent and offering you $11 million a year, you're probably not going to accept a restructured contract to stay with the Chargers for $7 million a year, right? Those are by no means concrete figures, but I'm trying to give you a vague idea of why I think Philip restructuring to stay in San Diego is not a guarantee. Also, I don't think the Chargers offering Rivers less than other teams would be insulting at that point. You have to pay players what they'd be worth to your team, in your system, not what they'd be worth to other teams.

Release him

If he has a bad 2013 season, there are no good reasons to not release Rivers.

Oh, he's a team leader? Well, so is every QB on every NFL roster. It's going to be pretty hard for him to be leading from the bench after throwing another bad interception. Matt Hasselbeck was a team leader in Seattle. Not sure they missed him a ton last season.

Antonio Gates won't be happy? Antonio Gates can barely walk, and he'll be happy to have any QB that can operate the offense in a way that frees him up to catch more passes.

The fans will be upset? I don't know, I think Packers fans eventually got over losing the Brett Favre guy that threw a bunch of bad interceptions....and he even won a few MVPs and got them a Super Bowl trophy.

These are not the old days. Rookie quarterbacks are ready to play, ready to start and get paid about minimum wage for the first few years. This roster is in absolute tatters. Imagine what Tom Telesco would be able to do with $15 million extra in cap space.

(For what it's worth, with the old CBA I would absolutely argue that the team has to keep Rivers. Paying unproven guys top dollar, like the Rams and Lions are now doing, really made it impossible to get rid of semi-reliable overpaid veterans.)

Trade him

Once I tweeted for an hour straight and convinced everyone that Philip Rivers needs to have a good 2013 season to be with the team in 2014, out came the group that I like to call "Michael Turner's biggest fans." You know the type. When it becomes obvious that a player should be released or can't be signed to an extension, they want to trade that player for a first rounder. Then, when the player succeeds on his new team, they whine about how the Chargers "gave him away" instead of getting something in return.

This is the point of this whole post. I want to explain, as clearly as I can, that Philip Rivers will not be traded by the San Diego Chargers next offseason.

Simply put, you can not trade something that everyone on earth knows that you don't want. What would be the point? If Philip Rivers isn't worth $15 million per year to the Chargers, he's not going to be worth $15 million per year to anyone else. If your argument is that another team could trade for him and then restructure his contract, then why wouldn't they wait until the Chargers release him and then sign him without having to give anything up?

The only semblance of an argument here is that a team would trade for the right to negotiate with Rivers before he hits the free agent market. That is hardly worth anything, especially when you consider that Rivers might decide he doesn't want to negotiate with the team. Someone may be willing to give up a seventh-round pick for that right, although that same team might want to avoid the bad connotation of "All we gave up to get you is a seventh round pick." Player egos are a dangerous thing to toy with.


I know. Those were a lot of words. I'm sorry. Let me do my best to summarize:

  • This is a very, very important season for Philip Rivers' future in San Diego. He needs to be at least "good" to stay with the team.
  • A great season probably means that nothing changes with Philip's contract situation and this whole post is wasted time.
  • A good season probably means a contract restructuring, which would be a good PR move for both parties.
  • A bad (or "not good") season probably means Rivers will end up getting released by the Chargers before signing on to be a starting QB elsewhere.
  • Nobody is going to trade for Rivers if he has another bad season because his contract is such an albatross that they know he'll be a free agent anyway.
So, now that you understand, what do you think is the most likely outcome?

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