In the wake of the six-year, $97.5 million extension signed recently by Eli Manning, and the eight-year, $102 million add-on that was awarded Ben Roethlisberger a year ago, there was much speculation that Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers would be the next Class of 2004 first-round quarterback to hit the extension mother lode.
Don't bet on a deal coming any time soon.
Rivers is entering the final year of his contract and can be an unrestricted free agent next spring, whether a collective bargaining agreement extension has been reached or not. It's not so much that discussions toward a Rivers extension have been fruitless so far as much as they have been sparse. Club officials took a hard-line stance in negotiating Rivers' rookie contract in 2004, and while general manager A.J. Smith has done a terrific job signing most of his core players to extensions, the Chargers, justifiably or not, are perceived around the NFL as a team that will sign a player to its numbers and not his.
Minus a contract extension, San Diego can still use a franchise designation on Rivers, but the tag probably will carry a tender value of $16 million to $17 million, and the franchise marker often precipitates acrimony between a player and team.
The Chargers are in better position with linebacker Shawne Merriman and left tackle Marcus McNeill, both of whom are entering the final season of their respective contracts. But because of their tenure in the league, Merriman (fifth season) and McNeill (fourth) will only be eligible for restricted free agency unless there is a CBA accord.
And the odds of that happening appear long indeed right now.
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