Chargers and Rivers: A game of hardball

As the San Diego Chargers progress through training camp, the hope that rookie quarterback Philip Rivers will report in time to have an impact on the 2004 season continues to fade. Sources have confirmed that River's would accept a deal if it bests the one signed by the third-overall pick, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Chargers said that an offer recently rejected by Rivers did just that. River's agent Jimmy Sexton feverishly dismissed the Chargers' claim as bogus. Batter up, play ball!

While the stances are clear, the facts are not. Numbers can be spun. The Chargers can spin the offer to sound the way they want it to. Sexton can do the same. So what's the truth?

"If the deal was worth more than Fitzgerald's, Rivers would be in camp right now," said a source close to the negotiations.

The Chargers have stated that a better offer will not be forth coming. And Rivers has left San Diego for Raleigh, N.C.

Recent history has shown that the Chargers are patient in these types of negotiations. In 2001, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, picked fifth overall, held out until the final preseason game. Quentin Jammer, also a number five pick, was a holdout into the start of the 2002 regular season. Whether or not the Chargers got their way in the end, well that's another story.

It seems simple. Rivers wants a deal that pays him more than Fitzgerald because quarterbacks should, and do, make more than other positions. And, of course, the Chargers have number-one pick allotted cap space. Sexton has backed off the stance that he want's number-one type money. He's seeking a deal in a neighborhood between Manning's and Fitzgerald's.

The Chargers said that other player's contracts would not be a factor in negotiations. But, when the deal was turned down, the first bit of information coming from the Chargers' was that the rejected offer was worth more than the contracts signed by Robert Gallery and Larry Fitzgerald.

Just because the Giants, Cardinals and Raiders threw crazy money out there, does that mean the Chargers have to? If they want Rivers to sign the answer is yes. Those signing's set the market. There's too much at stake for an agent to fail to get market value for a top five pick.

Will-full Wisdom

There's a new-school saying that goes: Don't hate the player, hate the game. Well, I hate this game. Not the game of NFL football. I love that. But the business game of NFL football. I hate the fact that players who have not proven a damn thing in the NFL, and their agents, can command these outrageous contracts. Meanwhile, veterans who are battle tested and proven, in some cases barely scrape-up the league minimum, which is peanuts in comparison.

But I don't hate the players, I hate the game. I can't blame Philip Rivers for wanting to be paid comparable to his peers. I can't blame his agent, Jimmy Sexton, for ensuring his client gets a fair deal and keeping himself in business. And I can't blame the Chargers for not wanting to give in to this damned game, but I do question the methods implored to sign their high first-round draft picks.

After the Eli Manning fiasco, you'd figure the Chargers would try anything to avoid another blow to the organization's credibility. Signing the top pick on time would've been a step in the right direction. Especially when considering the pick was a quarterback and the Chargers needed improved play from the quarterback position.

On a positive note, Monday was arguably Drew Brees' best of training camp. He was on target for most of the day. Brees knows the offense well, but still has to answer the question that he can be a solid NFL quarterback. It looks like he'll get his chance.

Sidenote: ESPN's John Clayton was set to check in on Chargers training camp on Wednesday, Aug 11, but he was seen roaming the fields in Carson during Monday afternoon's practice.

Will Mortensen can be reached at

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