Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Sep 2005

Rivers Expects to Start Somewhere in '06

Here's an interesting article from the other Michael Smith on Philip Rivers and his plight as a backup quarterback. He's in his second year with the Chargers, a team that found their quarterback of the future about the time Rivers decided to end his holdout. I saw this headline that suggested the Jets should trade for Rivers, but that might end up costing them more than what the Giants paid to get the other Manning.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 29 Sep 2005

16 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2005, 2:23pm by Clod


by jbf (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 10:08am

"We have two quarterbacks here. I like that. I like that very much," [A.J.] Smith said. "What do we do? It's an intriguing thing for us. You need one quarterback without a doubt. Some teams have one. I don't know how many have that second. Some don't have any. None. Zero."

What's left unwritten: "You know, like Baltimore."

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 10:40am

Of course, Mr. Rivers forgets that he'd be starting somewhere right now, namely San Diego, if he hadn't decided to hold out for a month in exchange for an extra $5 and change.

Let him sit on the bench if San Diego wants him there.


by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 12:12pm

Apparently the Gary is getting his PFP prognostications confused. It's not the Matt Leinart Derby, it's Leinart Land. If you need an OT you put your hat into the D'Brickshaw D'erby. I think the Jets could use both at this point.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 2:54pm

Too bad Cedric Benson didn't take notes last summer.

by JG (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 6:46pm

While I may not agree with veterans holding out, atleast I can understand it. They have training, they don't really need as much time in the system. Comming in from college you need a lot of time to adjust, if you hold out, even for a week, for extra money there is a significant chance it could cost you a starting job. Ok, so your initial salary will be marginally higher, but by not starting (i.e. Rivers) you gain no experience, and when your next contract time comes you might have had a year or two on the bench, so you'll be paid like you were a backup for a couple of years. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it must be detrimental to your career to hold out as a rookie.

I'm pretty sure I've seen TMQ make the same point before. (just thought I'd throw a bone to all you Easterbrook hates that visit this site)

by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 7:50pm

The only way Rivers is sure to start next season is if Brees stinks the rest of this year. I don't know what the figures are but I bet that the cap hit for SD if they trade him is horrendous. If so, SD will want big compensation in terms of draft picks.

If you are a team looking for a young QB, why would you take Rivers? He's as unproven as any rookie in next years draft, and his salary plus the picks you give up to trade for him make him VERY expensive in comparision to simply drafting Joe Rookie next April.

If SD cut him then fair enough, but that ain't gonna happen so where's the value? It's bad enough if you draft a QB high and he turns into Tim Couch, but if you've given up multiple picks for him and had someone else negotiate his contract for you?

The article also quotes the Chargers GM as saying the have enough cap room next year to keep them both so it seems unlikely he can force a trade.

Unless SD are committed to starting him next year come what may, or some team has bundles of cap room AND a need at QB AND is convinced Rivers is the answer the only way I see Rivers guarenteed to start next year is if Drew Brees implodes this year, and that doesn't look likely.

I hope Rivers enjoys the extra $$$ he made by holding out, and I hope he really believes that was the right thing to do, because at the moment it looks like a terrible decision.

by ElJefe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 8:46pm

Have to disagree with #6, although it has to be tempered with less-than-full knowledge of Rivers' contract.

Since SD already paid the signing bonus, Rivers should still be cheap next year. Certainly he would cost significantly less cash out of pocket than drafting a QB in round 1. This actually may make him more valuable (to both SD and the other team) since he would be much less of a financial risk. If his salary numbers get high in years 4,5,or 6, a team trading for him could cut him loose without taking a hit on a signing bonus acceleration. And his sitting for two full years probably makes it unlikely he would meet any escalator/void clauses in his contract, which is likely what his complaining is really about.

The Chargers may have room to carry both QBs at their projected cap number next season, but if they want to trade Rivers they probably need to have Brees signed long-term. I would be skeptical they could fit both a 2nd Franchise tender (mandatory 20% raise over his salary this year) for Brees and the acceleration of Rivers' bonus.

If we could find more details on the contract we could put more definite numbers in this argument.

by Ned (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 11:53pm

A list of quarterbacks among the top 20 picks (i.e. not drafted by a playoff team) who did not play much or at all in their first season over the past ten years:
Philip Rivers
Carson Palmer
Michael Vick
Chad Pennington
Daunte Culpepper
Steve McNair

Not bad company for Rivers. I'd certainly trade for him over any qb that may be "avaialable" including Volek who is not very young.

by bobstar (not verified) :: Thu, 09/29/2005 - 11:58pm

Anyone know why the franchise salary for a CB (Oakland's Woodson) is higher than that for a QB (Brees)?

I agree with ElJefe. Since every year, draft picks get substantially higher contracts than previous years' picks, Rivers' salary is bound to be lower than a high first round QB in the next draft. Plus he's had two years of acclimating to the NFL (albeit on the bench). Plus he's avoided any wear and tear for the past two years. But. There does seem to be a discounting that goes on with "delayed" draft picks, such as Mike Williams this year and Drew Henson last year whereby the players are sorta punished for being away from the game for a spell.

by ElJefe (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 1:08am

Best info I could find was that Rivers signed a 6-year contract for $40.5 MM with a $14.25 MM signing bonus. If that's correct (and all the bonus is paid up front), SD would be on the hook for $9.5 MM in signing bonus acceleration if they traded Rivers this off-season.

It also means a team acquiring him would be inheriting a 4-year contract for something in the neighborhood of $22-$24 MM, with the last two years likely being much more expensive than the first two.

If that's true, this offseason will be the peak of Rivers' value. After this SD would take a smaller cap hit, but the acquiring team would have much less of a "tryout" period before they would have to commit large money to extend Rivers' contract.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:39am

Why would anyone trade for a tall Danny Wuerrfel? Well, at least he'd be good in the community, I guess.

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 10:58am

Ok guys, I take your points about his contract numbers. Maybe financially Rivers is not as expensive as I thought. I still maitain that a trade will not be straightforward.

Ned, your list is fully of good QBs, but they were all drafted by the team they start for, so there was no extra cost involved in trading for them.

SD are going to want big picks for him, I would guess a 1st and a 3rd as a minimum. Does Phillip Rivers justify that sort of price? I don't think so. Having said that I don't see any college ball, so I don't really have a handle on who might be drafted next year, beyond Leinart, and MDS's favourite Omar Jacobs.

If the rookies next year are a poor crop, then the value of Phillip Rivers increases, but SD will also know that and the price will increase accordingly.

My real point is that Rivers doesn't have sufficient 'value-added' over next years draftees to justify the blockbuster trade SD will demand.

If you give up the picks for him you need to get Brett Favre from Atlanta not Drew Bledsoe from the Pats.

Of course the Chargers will let him go for a 4th round pick now and make me look really silly....

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 12:33pm

Re: #8.

Carson Palmer
Michael Vick
Chad Pennington
Daunte Culpepper
Steve McNair

Yes, many of those QBs spent a year or more on the bench before starting.

But in most of those other cases, they arrived in camp, signed, ready to practice. It was the decision of the team to allow them to develop on the bench (which often works out well for young QBs). The team drafted them as their QB of the Future and chose to let them sit.

However, that wasn't the case with Rivers. Yeah, he was drafted as the QB of the Future, but he wasn't on the bench because the team though he needed a year to adjust to the NFL. Hell, he would have likely been the starter in 2004 had he simply signed and showed up. The problem is, he (and his agent) knew that, so they decided to play hardball, and in the process not only lost his starting job but allowed San Diego to find its "QB of the Future" in Brees.

They don't need him anymore, but they don't want anyone else to have him, and they don't want the huge cap hit of trading him (plus, if they did trade him, they'd probably want high draft picks in return, which would have their own big signing bonuses).

He messed up, he knows it, and he sees his NFL future going down the drain if he sits on the bench in San Diego for the length of his contract.


by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2005 - 3:51pm

So what would be the ideal strategy for a top-15 draft pick, in signing that rookie contract? To maximize his value, and get into camp on time? (Aside from a rookie salary format.)

I still don't understand why Rivers thought he deserved #1 overall pick money, when he wasn't taken #1 overall. Just because the team that had the #1 overall pick traded for him, doesn't mean he's that guy.

If Rivers really has NFL talent, he should just relax and work his ass off with the Chargers. His opportunity will most likely come along eventually. Surely Brees will get hurt at least for a couple games in the next few years. Rivers can collect money in the meantime, and keep himself fresh. Worst case scenario, he never plays in San Diego but stays on the team for his full contract, then signs as a free agent someplace else, with 6 years experience of being on an NFL team. The NFL used to have tons of players like that. Steve Young was basically one.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 9:31am

"SD are going to want big picks for him, I would guess a 1st and a 3rd as a minimum. Does Phillip Rivers justify that sort of price? I don’t think so. Having said that I don’t see any college ball, so I don’t really have a handle on who might be drafted next year, beyond Leinart, and MDS’s favourite Omar Jacobs.

If the rookies next year are a poor crop, then the value of Phillip Rivers increases, but SD will also know that and the price will increase accordingly.

My real point is that Rivers doesn’t have sufficient ‘value-added’ over next years draftees to justify the blockbuster trade SD will demand."

I don't watch much college ball either, for the same reason as you, but as I understand it, next year's draft class is expected to be a pretty damn strong one all around, with a number of highly touted QBs (you could add Texas's Vince Young to your list, for starters) - as I understand it, QB looks like being the position with most noteworthily above average talent apart from OT. A Rivers trade next spring would be hamstrung in the same way as potential Alexander and James trades were last (although less badly, thanks to less fungibility). The boy is in trouble.

by Clod (not verified) :: Sat, 10/01/2005 - 2:23pm

Rivers salary for next year is set for less than 700k. It has insentive clauses that would take it in the millions. He will not reach insentives on the bench. A new team would only take on a huge cap hit if he does well. The jets would be smart to trade for him now, and get him half a year of training and have him ready to start next year. Or the bucks for that matter...do they think Greise is a long term solution? And gruden seems to have soured on Simms.