Philip Rivers

Extra Points: Clark, Cox, Rivers, Lions, XFL

In extending Russell Wilson, the Seahawks took care of their signature piece of offseason business on Tuesday. But more key contract negotiations loom, with Bobby Wagner entering a contract year and Frank Clark having yet to sign his franchise tender. It appears the trade talk surrounding Clark has not totally died down. This week has produced some chatter around the league about a Clark swap, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets. This comes shortly after a report indicated the Seahawks rebuffed outside interest in Clark at the outset of free agency and would only trade the impact defensive end if they were overwhelmed by an offer. Clark has said he will not report to Seahawks training camp without a long-term deal, so this obviously qualifies as a situation worth monitoring.

Shifting first to another NFC team’s defensive line, here is the latest from around the American football universe:

  • Fletcher Cox confirmed (via Philly.com’s Les Bowen) he underwent an offseason surgery to repair a foot injury sustained during the Eagles‘ divisional-round loss in New Orleans. The procedure appears to have been done several weeks ago, and while Cox is out of a walking boot, the veteran defensive tackle looks set to miss Philadelphia’s offseason program. His goal is to return by training camp. Cox is coming off his best NFL season, which featured a career-high 10.5 sacks and his first appearance on the All-Pro first team.
  • Also in the NFC East: Ezekiel Elliott did show up for the first day of the Cowboys‘ offseason program, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. So far, so good on the prospects of the Cowboys avoiding a contract-related holdout with their star running back. An Elliott holdout has been rumored, but for now, the fourth-year back is working out with his teammates.
  • Conversely, Philip Rivers did not show up for Day 1 of the Chargers‘ offseason work, Eric Williams of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The 16th-year quarterback is entering a contract year, but the Bolts view him as an obvious extension candidate. Though, it is not certain if re-up talks have begun. Nevertheless, this does not appear to be a contentious situation.
  • As the deadline for teams to wrap up pre-draft visits approaches, the Lions squeezed in a meeting with Clelin Ferrell, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter). Detroit’s biggest offseason investment went toward its defensive end corps, in Trey Flowers‘ deal, but the Lions have met with other edge prospects as well. Both Brian Burns and L.J. Collier visited the Lions this month. Like Burns, Ferrell grades as a first-round-level prospect.
  • Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will resurface in the XFL. The 67-year-old coach will become HC for the XFL’s New York franchise, Jay Glazer of The Athletic tweets. Gilbride has been a head coach twice in his four-decade coaching career, leading the Chargers for 22 games between the 1997-98 seasons and overseeing the Southern Connecticut State program from 1980-84. Gilbride’s most recent NFL role was a seven-year stint as Giants OC, which ended in 2013.

West Notes: Rivers, Broncos, Rams

The Chargers have not made much of an effort to target Philip Rivers‘ heir apparent yet. Because the plan still appears to be a semi-long-term future with their current starter. Extension talks between the Bolts and their 37-year-old quarterback are set to commence. Rivers confirmed no such discussions have unfolded yet, but going through his 15th season did not change his mindset to avoid retirement for a while. The 2004 first-round pick gave the “year-by-year” answer during a radio interview with San Diego’s XTRA 1360 (via Pro Football Talk) before adding he believes he has a “handful” of seasons left. In the final year of his latest contract, Rivers is due an $11MM base salary and $5MM roster bonus in 2019. A $23MM cap charge is attached to this deal, and another re-up would bring that down. Los Angeles is projected to hold middle-of-the-pack cap space ($25MM-plus).

Here is the latest from the West divisions, moving to one of the Bolts’ top rivals:

  • Although Domata Peko‘s two seasons in Denver doubled as the Broncos‘ worst two-year stretch since the early 1970s, the veteran nose tackle rewarded the team’s modest investment. Again a free agent, Peko wants to continue his stay in Denver. “Of course I want to be back,” Peko said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “I love it here, love these guys, you don’t know what they’re going to decide. But I feel good, like I can play.” The Broncos saw more improvement from Shelby Harris, an RFA who could be in line for a hefty raise. Harris could slide in and become Denver’s new starting nose, but Peko, at 34, may not cost too much to retain as a part-time player. Pro Football Focus slotted the longtime Bengals nose man as this year’s No. 42 interior defender.
  • Conversely, the Broncos’ half-decade run with Bradley Roby is expected to end, per Legwold. Neither Roby nor 2015 first-rounder Shane Ray are expected back in Denver next season. The Broncos have a solid glut of impending UFAs, with Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett joining Peko, Roby and Ray. While the Broncos have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb residing as one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing duos, their formerly formidable cornerback corps will be incredibly thin without Roby. All-Pro Chris Harris is still under contract, but for just one more season.
  • One of the workout circuit’s most popular players, free agent punter Brock Miller received a look from another team recently. The Rams employ All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, but with the Patriots featuring left-footed punter Ryan Allen, Los Angeles brought in the left-footed-punting Miller for a look, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Miller has received several workouts like this but been more than a de facto scout-teamer, being part of the Giants’ practice squad last month.

Chargers Plan To Extend Philip Rivers

The Chargers plan to extend the contract of quarterback Philip Rivers, who is entering the final year of his deal, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com.

“I can tell you he’s not going anywhere, so he’s going to be here,” Los Angeles general manager Tom Telesco said. “We’ll talk at the right point, as far as the moves we need to make in the offseason, the resources we have and how it all fits in. But yeah, he’s not going anywhere.”

Rivers, 37, sounded amenable to an extension, as well. Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Rivers is due an $11MM base salary and $5MM roster bonus in 2019, and has a cap charge of $23MM. His current pact, which he inked in 2015, contains an average annual vale of $20.812MM. That figure ranked fourth among quarterbacks at the time of signing, but now sits at just 14th among signal-callers.

Last year, Rivers started all 16 games for the 13th consecutive season, and posted 4,308 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His adjusted net yards per attempt (7.79) was the third-highest average in the league and Rivers’ best mark since 2009, while he finished seventh in Total QBR.

Latest On Philip Rivers’ Future With Chargers

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is having, at age 36 (37 in less than two weeks), a career year. He has completed 67% of his passes for 2,860 yards and 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions, good for a 112.1 quarterback rating — which would be the highest of his career — and he is on the fringe of the MVP conversation. More importantly, his team sits at 7-3 and is in full control of its playoff destiny.

However, his contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, and between that and his advanced age, there are plenty of questions about his future with the club. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says the Chargers want Rivers to be their starting quarterback “for as long as he wants to do it” (video link). RapSheet notes that Rivers, who is owed just $11MM in base salary in 2019, is also due a $5MM roster bonus near the start of the 2019 league year in March, which Los Angeles is expected to pick up. The team will therefore be paying him $16MM next season unless they reach an extension before then, which is a bargain for a quarterback of his caliber.

Rapoport also suggests that Rivers wants to be the Bolts’ QB at least until the team moves into its new stadium, but the stadium will open in 2020, so that does not do much to clarify Rivers’ long-term future. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, it makes sense for player and team to have a frank, candid discussion about how long Rivers wants to play. The 2004 first-round pick has said that he would like to play for a few more seasons, but it is unclear exactly what that means, and the Chargers will need to know that before they go ahead and agree to pay Rivers a boatload of guaranteed money.

Rapoport says that the Chargers are willing to draft a quarterback and allow him to sit behind Rivers for several seasons, and depending on what Rivers tells them about his plans, that could happen as soon as 2019. Indeed, the Chargers were rumored as a potential fit for Baker Mayfield prior to the 2018 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.

Draft Notes: Mayfield, Rosen, Cards, Nelson

The expected recipient of this season’s Heisman Trophy, Baker Mayfield figures to generate plenty of opinions during the pre-draft process. Some of the immediate responses from NFL evaluators have been positive following the Oklahoma senior’s dominant regular season. Albert Breer of SI.com surmises from the several-dozen scouts he’s spoken to throughout the season that Mayfield should wind up as a first-round pick, his baggage notwithstanding.

He’s extremely talented,” an AFC college scouting director told Breer. “Guys want to play for him, players believe in him, the staff believes in him. I’ve heard the comparisons to (Drew) Brees, (Johnny) Manziel, (Russell) Wilson, and there’s a little bit of all of them in his game. And he’s not Manziel in terms of the off-field stuff — he studies his ass off; he goes through his progressions; he’s not a typical spread QB. He has first-round ability.”

Mayfield’s height, around 6-foot, could be an issue for some teams. And his Big 12 background may as well. But Breer expects a first-round investment to occur.

Here’s more on Mayfield and other key prospects.

  • Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com polled five NFL execs regarding Mayfield’s best destination and didn’t get one definitive answer. While some quarterback-needy teams came up, two decision-makers mentioned the Saints and Chargers as Mayfield fits. Both suggest multiyear apprenticeships behind Brees and Philip Rivers. However, a source told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report Rivers’ resurgence has “basically shut down” the prospect of the Bolts making a quarterback-of-the-future pick in the upcoming first round. Rivers turned 36 on Friday.
  • Josh Rosen is the likeliest of the likely first-round quarterbacks to start from Day 1, a group of seven executives polled by Yahoo Sports concluded. The UCLA passer’s throwing motion is “as elite as it gets for a prospect,” Charles Robinson of Yahoo writes. That septet of execs rated Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Mayfield as the Nos. 2-4 prospects and likely first-rounders. Darnold’s elongated throwing motion and tendency to bail on plays, in the mind of some evaluators, could cost him the No. 1 spot. Allen received the “project” label in this piece, but the Wyoming product’s size/speed/arm strength combination could be enticing — especially come workout time.
  • On Allen, Miller notes the Cardinals are connected to the current junior signal-caller. Miller writes the Cardinals abandoned their first-round quarterback crusade after Patrick Mahomes went to the Chiefs at No. 10, with the team declaring it was going to delay its Carson Palmer succession strategy a year. Allen may be the next guy the Cards are eyeing, viewing his athleticism and potential — and presumably the likelihood he won’t be a top-two pick like the Pac-12 passers — as Mahomes-esque. That might not mean much at the moment, with Mahomes having yet to play, but Miller expects Allen to be a top-10 pick. That’s more than could have been said for Mahomes at this point in last year’s process. The Jets remain the team that’s done the most work on Allen, however.
  • In a post connecting teams with prospects, Miller notes the Bears are “all about” Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. However, the draft analyst notes the Bears are expected to land a top-10 pick. Ridley, in his mind, does not qualify for such an investment.
  • Notre Dame’s offensive line figures to produce two first-round talents in tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. While McGlinchy’s name has hovered on draft radars longer, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com notes Nelson is viewed as the better prospect among scouts. One scout declared Nelson was the best prospect he’d seen this season “by far.” Miller notes the Broncos have Nelson rated as the top offensive lineman on their early board.
  • Cowboys coaching and scouting sources told Miller the team doesn’t expect to be holding mid-first-round picks much in the near future, and he writes the team will pursue a higher-end pass rusher “while it can.” That’s bold thinking for a team that is 6-6 and has missed the playoffs in five seasons this decade, but the Cowboys did earn home-field advantage last season. And the need for an impact end remains.

Philip Rivers Cleared To Play On Sunday

The Chargers will have their franchise quarterback when they face the Bills at home on Sunday. The team has announced that Philip Rivers has cleared the league’s concussion protocol and will be active for the team’s 10th game of the season, according to Eric Williams of ESPN.com. The soon-to-be 36-year-old veteran signal caller hasn’t not started a regular season game since 2005, when he was the clear backup to then starter Drew Brees in San Diego.

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Rivers has been progressing on schedule throughout the past week and it seemed more and more likely that the all-star QB would play as the week went along. While the not the same player he was in his prime, the former fourth overall draft pick back in 2004 has maintained low-end starting caliber numbers in his 14th year in the league. Rivers has passed for over 2,250 yards in nine games in 2017, throwing 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His QBR stands at a meager 43.1 through 10 weeks with him ranking as just the 24th best quarterback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nevertheless, Rivers is a much better option than backups Kellen Clemens and Cardale Jones to roll out on gameday. Jones only appeared in one game for the Bills during his rookie season, while Clemens has only attempted 10 passes since 2014. At 3-6, the Chargers seem to be on the outside looking in of the postseason pitcure, even with what looks to be an underwhelming race for the final wild card spot in the AFC. Still, Los Angeles must beat Buffalo this weekend if the team hopes to have any shot in pushing for a playoff spot during the final two months of the regular season, which now looks like much more manageable task with Rivers expected to play in Week 11.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Philip Rivers In Concussion Protocol

The Chargers could be without their quarterback this weekend. Coach Anthony Lynn announced tonight that Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol (via the team’s Twitter account). This would be a tough blow to a Chargers squad that has dropped two in a row.

Philip RiversRivers has been remarkably durable during his 13-year career, as he hasn’t missed a regular season game since taking over as the full-time quarterback in 2006. The 35-year-old also hasn’t shown any major signs that he’s slowing down. In nine games this season, Rivers has completed 60.1-percent of his passes for 2,263 yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

If Rivers was forced to miss any time, Kellen Clemens would likely earn the start for the Chargers. The 34-year-old hasn’t had an extended run as a starter since 2013, when he played in 10 games (nine starts) for the Rams. That season, Clemens completed 58.7-percent of his passes for 1,673 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He’s played in 17 games with the Chargers since joining the organization in 2014. The team is also rostering former Bills draft pick Cardale Jones, who appeared in one game with Buffalo last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Restructure Philip Rivers’ Contract

The Chargers created some additional cap space on Tuesday by restructuring Philip Rivers‘ contract.

A day after nearly leading the Bolts to a dramatic comeback win in Denver, Rivers agreed to convert $3MM of his base salary into a signing bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

This will create $2MM in cap space for the Chargers, who hold just less than $10MM in space, according to OverTheCap.

Los Angeles’ decision will add $1MM to each of Rivers’ ensuing two cap figures, which reside at $22MM and $23MM, respectively. Rivers’ four-year, $83.25MM contract runs through the 2019 season. The 14th-year quarterback is attached to an $18MM cap figure this season; that figure remains the highest on the Bolts by a healthy margin.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, set to enter his age-35 season and his 14th in the NFL, doesn’t see retirement on the horizon. “I don’t want to hang on at the end and just be a guy that’s hanging on,” Rivers told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “But if I still feel like I can help a team and I enjoy it the way I do and more importantly, if the team feels that I can help them. … I don’t see myself shutting it down any time real soon.” Rivers, who still has three years remaining on his contract, posted the fifth 30-touchdown and eighth 4,000-yard campaign of his career last season, though he also tossed a personal-worst 21 interceptions as a member of an injury-plagued, five-win team.

  • Like Rivers, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski would like to continue his career into the foreseeable future. One key difference between the two is that Janikowski is already on the cusp of his 40s. Nevertheless, the 39-year-old’s aiming to remain the Raiders’ kicker when they relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. “I hope so, that’s my goal,” he said, via the Associated Press. “That’s not my decision.” Janikowski will be 42 when the Raiders move, which isn’t an unprecedented age for a kicker to play at (the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri is 44, and ex-Raider George Blanda lasted until he was 48, notes the AP), but it would make for a remarkable run with one franchise. Janikowski is entering his 18th year with the Raiders, who raised eyebrows when the then-Al Davis-led organization chose him 17th overall in the 2000 draft. The ex-Florida State Seminole has generally been effective for the Raiders since, including when he made 29 of 35 field goals last year.
  • One of Janikowski’s Raiders teammates, quarterback Derek Carr, is a candidate to receive a record contract worth $25MM-plus per year prior to the season. But Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com is somewhat skeptical of Carr and the Raiders, arguing that it will be tough for either to replicate their 2016 performances this year. Carr will have difficulty avoiding negative regression on both his paltry interception rate (1.1 percent) and lofty fourth-quarter comeback total (seven) from last season, while the Raiders probably won’t win 12 games again unless they dramatically improve their point differential, Barnwell contends. Oakland only outscored its opposition by 31 points last season, leading to a Pythagorean Expectation of 8.7 wins. Additionally, the club went a hard-to-sustain 8-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points.
  • Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin told PFT Live on Thursday that the manner in which the Chiefs notified him of his release earlier this month left him “upset” and “shocked.” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey informed Maclin via voicemail that the team was moving on from him after two years, 131 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Maclin also confirmed that the Chiefs tried to trade him and never asked him to take a pay cut, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reported two weeks ago.