posted on Aug, 24 2004 @ 09:34 AM
Weeks of stop-and-start negotiations, fueled by a dose of public acrimony and a touch of intransigence on the part of San Diego officials, ended
Monday night with the Chargers and first-round pick Philip Rivers finally reaching a contract agreement.
The accord ends a stalemate during which the former North Carolina State quarterback missed two preseason games and approximately 30 training camp
Rivers will sign a six-year contract and ESPN.com has confirmed that the base value is $41 million. The deal includes roughly $18 million-$19 million
in guaranteed money ($14.275 million signing bonus plus other guarantees) and an additional $11 million in incentives.
The contract will be officially executed Tuesday, when Rivers is expected to practice for the first time since minicamps.
The two sides moved closer to an agreement Monday afternoon, after agent Jimmy Sexton sent the Chargers two more proposals beyond those he offered
late last week. Early in the evening, there were positive signs that the momentum seemed to be moving toward an agreement, but sources cautioned there
were still some potential deal-breaker issues that needed to be resolved.
By about 9:30 p.m., however, those elements were hammered out and a deal was struck. The impasse ended when the Chargers moved some money around to
get it to Rivers a bit earlier in the contract. The two sides also agreed to remove some preposterous incentives that Rivers would never have
realized. The $11 million incentive package that is part of final deal is based on elements like taking the team to the playoffs, ranking among the
top five passers in key statistical categories and playoff appearances.
The fourth prospect chosen overall, Rivers was dealt to the Chargers, who held the top pick in the draft, for fellow quarterback Eli Manning in
arguably the most unusual draft-day trade in modern league history.
Rivers is the last first-round pick to come to terms on a contract. Just one draftee, Indianapolis Colts second-round safety Bob Sanders of the
University of Iowa, remains unsigned.
The pace to Monday's negotiations, and the optimism the dialogue fueled as the day wore on, was somewhat surprising, considering that Chargers
management last Friday rejected three proposals by Sexton. Those proposals essentially jump-started dormant negotiations. The two sides had not
spoken, though, over the weekend.
In fact, there has been more silence than significant bargaining, especially by the team, over the course of the past month. Talks had stalled on Aug.
8, when Chargers officials publicly announced that Rivers missed a deadline for agreeing to their "final" offer. General manager A.J. Smith suggested
that he would begin removing money from the Chargers' offer at that point and that really stymied progress.
The public stance of the Chargers set off a war of words with Sexton, who rarely speaks to the media, firing back at the team. It also sent Rivers,
who had remained in the San Diego area to that point, back home to North Carolina to work privately on conditioning. There ensued a week-long hiatus
in the negotiations.
An optimistic Rivers returned to San Diego early last week, perhaps in advance of what he felt might be a pending agreement.
"This is a fair deal for Philip and the Chargers," said Smith. "We're just happy to have negotiations behind us and a bright future ahead for
Rivers, 22, is one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history and his 51 career starts are a record at the college level. He completed 1,087 of
1,710 passes for 13,484 yards, with 95 touchdown passes and just 34 interceptions. His passing yardage and total all-purpose yards (13,582) are both
the second-most in NCAA history and his 95 touchdown passes are the fifth most.
The San Diego staff became enamored of Rivers while coaching him in the Senior Bowl. While he has an unusual release, Rivers gets the ball where it
has to be, and with uncanny accuracy.
It was anticipated that Rivers would challenge incumbent Drew Brees for the starter's job, but that is unlikely now, given the amount of camp time he
Long holdouts by first-round choices are hardly new to the San Diego franchise. The average signing date for the team's five previous first-rounders
was Aug. 23. The club and Rivers held true to form, since Monday's date was Aug. 23.