Coming off arguably the finest professional season of his career, one might have expected the Chargers to engage Philip Rivers in long-term extension talks. Apparently, San Diego brass is satisfied waiting until 2015.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the Chargers are not planning on engaging Rivers' representation before the 2014 NFL season, even though they want him around for the long haul. Rivers, 32, has two years remaining on the six-year, $91.8 million deal he signed in 2009.
Under terms of the agreement, Rivers will have a $13.8 million base salary this season and make $15.75 million in 2015. The Chargers would like to have a new deal in place before he heads into his "lame duck" season, per La Canfora.
Rivers is coming off a monster 2013 campaign in which he reclaimed a position among the league's best quarterbacks. He threw for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, completing a career-high 69.5 percent of his passes. He also matched a career high with a 105.5 quarterback rating and led the Chargers to a surprise playoff berth.
It's interesting to see San Diego take this stance a year after asking Rivers to restructure the framework of his deal. Then again, taking a wait-and-see approach might be the best move given where Rivers' reputation was at this time a year ago.
Coming off back-to-back relatively disappointing campaigns in 2011 and 2012, many considered last season something of a fork in the road for Rivers. He'd become one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the league, throwing 35 interceptions and fumbling the ball 24 times in a two-year span. The nadir culminated with a 7-9 season in 2012 that saw Norv Turner's aerial passing attack be replaced by the more conservative stylings of Mike McCoy.
The switch paid instant dividends.
Rivers cut his interceptions to a manageable 11, fumbled only three times and became an advanced metrics darling. Football Outsiders' DYAR metric ranked him as the league's second-best quarterback behind Peyton Manning. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) had him behind Manning and Philadelphia's Nick Foles. Per PFF, Rivers was the league's most accurate quarterback, killed under pressure and resembled the perennial Pro Bowler of years past.
When asked by Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times what went different, Rivers made a point of indicating football is a game of inches:
I guess for me, after going through those rough years, I realized that the difference between rolling along good and not so good is the difference of about that much. I didn't all of a sudden get fixed or learn how to play quarterback again. No, I played stretches of those previous two years like I played last year. I just had those disastrous plays and turnovers at the absolute wrong time, and too many of them.
It only makes sense for the Chargers to do their due diligence. If Rivers reverts to his turnover-happy tendencies this season, the team can either cut bait without penalty or force him to play out the final year of his contract. The going rate for an elite quarterback is not going to change midway through the season, so San Diego isn't risking much in long-term money, either.
As for Rivers, the pressure was already sky high. San Diego had arguably the NFL's worst defense last season—it ranked dead last overall and 28th in weighted DVOA, per Football Outsiders—and will again hang near the bottom. The Chargers relied on Rivers and the San Diego offense to carry them to the playoffs. They'll need a repeat performance to be playing in January again.
If Rivers manages to pull it off, he'll never have to worry about his financial security again. If not, the prospect of a lame-duck year will grow higher.
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Contract info is via Spotrac.