I wish I were Kellen Clemens. By that I mean that I wish I got paid as handsomely as he does with no real (on-field) expectations for performance at all. This is to say that I’m jealous of Clemens and a little angered, year after year, that the Los Angeles Chargers to continue to waste money on him.
The Track Record
In 11 NFL seasons, Kellen Clemens has made over $10.2 million and has thrown more than 100 passes in just two years. Those are also the only two years in which he’s started more than 3 games.
Clemens never made more than a million dollars in a year until the Chargers came knocking, nearly doubling his 2013 salary (when he started 9 games for the St. Louis Rams) to make him the team’s backup QB behind Philip Rivers.
He’s made more than $4 million in the three years he’s spent with the Chargers and is scheduled to make another million this season. He has thrown 10 passes for the Chargers in the regular season, resulting in 6 completions and a touchdown. This is an absurd lack of value for a team that operates within a salary cap.
To put it more bluntly, Kellen Clemens is both not good and not used by the team that signs his checks and repeatedly signs him to new contracts. Why are the Chargers wasting money?
I could make a big long chart to explain this point, but just trust me on this one:
Every backup QB in the league is either paid more than Clemens or is on a rookie contract. Some that are on the rookie contract are still paid more than Clemens.
To answer why the Chargers continue to do this, the answer is fairly simple: They don’t want to spend any money, at all, on a backup QB.
The Solution / The Problem
So, if you’re trying to save money on the backup QB position, why not put the cheapest possible option there? For years, the Chargers flirted with Brad Sorensen but never thought enough of him to let Clemens go.
Anyone who wants to argue that the Chargers’ ship could be kept afloat by Clemens after a major injury to Philip Rivers has either a) never watched Philip Rivers play or b) has no clue who Kellen Clemens is.
What the team should be doing, in my opinion, is copying the Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers: Regularly backing up Rivers with undervalued rookies that can be grabbed in later rounds.
There’s a reason the Patriots were ready to handle Tom Brady’s suspension with Jimmy Garoppolo, a reason the Cowboys were able to easily transition out of the Tony Romo era into the Dak Prescott era, and a reason the Packers no longer live in (as much) fear of an Aaron Rodgers injury (hello, Brett Hundley!).
Why aren’t the Chargers planning for the future? Why aren’t they creating backup plans if their QB, like all other QBs, eventually faces a major injury?
My only guess, and I hate to say this, is that Rivers doesn’t want competition brought in (the way he was brought in to compete with Drew Brees as a rookie) and doesn’t want to babysit a kid. Instead of teaching, he’d rather pal around with a guy that’s been around the NFL long enough to get it right way and not create any sort of threat to Rivers’ status as the team’s needed savior.
The team’s Head Coach obviously sees the writing on the wall, and saw it before the 2017 NFL Draft, but that wasn’t enough. This is Rivers’ team, and he’s keeping Kellen Clemens around as long as he can.