The San Diego Chargers aren't doing any favors for their coach, Marty Schottenheimer.
Schottenheimer has a bad team, and a poor season probably would cost him his job. Yet after passing up players like left tackle Robert Gallery and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who would have provided immediate help with the top overall pick in the draft in April, the Chargers traded the draft's top quarterback -- Eli Manning -- to the New York Giants after he told them that he wouldn't play in San Diego. And now they can't sign the quarterback -- Philip Rivers -- they got in return.
Contract negotiations between the team and Rivers's agent, Jimmy Sexton, are stalled, to the point that Rivers was scheduled to return to the East Coast on Monday and Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said the club was prepared to reduce its offer after Rivers and Sexton rejected a take-it-or-leave-it proposal that expired Sunday. Smith said the Chargers will not pay Rivers, the draft's fourth overall choice, a deal equal to the one that agent Tom Condon negotiated with the Giants for Manning -- worth $45 million over six seasons, including $20 million in bonuses -- but offered him a contract more lucrative than those signed by Gallery (the second selection by the Oakland Raiders) and Fitzgerald (the third pick by the Arizona Cardinals).
"Negotiations have broken down," Smith said in front of reporters Monday, reading from a written statement. "Prior to [the] training camp report date, we made an effort to get Philip signed. Also, during the past week, we exchanged ideas and could not come to an agreement. On Friday, we offered a great deal to Philip. We also notified both Philip and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, that the offer will stand until 5 p.m. Sunday evening and if not accepted, the offer will be pulled off the table. Our offer was rejected. We also informed them that the package we talked about and offered will now only go down in value.
"The offer we made to Philip is not a slot offer at No. 4, but in fact, an offer that exceeds No. 2 Robert Gallery and No. 3 Larry Fitzgerald. We believe it's a great offer. Jimmy Sexton has been informed several times that the Manning-Condon deal with the New York Giants was of no concern to us before, no concern now or will it be in the future. This is very unfortunate and disappointing, but it is what it is.
"It's now time to concentrate on the players we have here and get ready for the preseason games and gear our efforts for the [regular season] opener against Houston. From this time forward I will not talk about the Philip Rivers contract situation any more. I hope I've made our position very clear. If he decides to sign a contract with the San Diego Chargers, then I'll be more than happy to talk about Philip Rivers.
"Dean Spanos [the team's president] supports this decision 100 percent. . . . I'll be more than happy to talk about anything relating to our football team but not about Philip Rivers. . . . That's it on Philip Rivers."
Such threats in contract negotiations are as transparent as they come: Does anyone really believe that if Sexton calls Smith today and says he's ready to make concessions and work until a middle ground is reached, the Chargers would stick to their dwindling offer?
But it is a sign of the state of the discussions, and now it appears that the stalemate could last into September. Such standoffs in negotiations with first-round picks are nothing new to the Chargers: Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson reported for the final preseason game in 2001, and cornerback Quentin Jammer signed after the first regular season game in 2002. Cornerback Sammy Davis reported to training camp on time last year, however.
Rivers had been in San Diego until Monday, waiting to make the drive to the Chargers' training camp in Carson, Calif., if a deal was struck but was to return East on Monday. Like Condon's negotiations with the Giants on Manning, the talks between Sexton and the Chargers were complicated by the clubs' draft-day trade involving the quarterbacks.
Because the deal was made after the Chargers drafted Manning and the Giants selected Rivers, San Diego was assigned a league-high rookie pool -- a salary cap for rookies within a club's overall $80.6 million salary cap -- of $6.025 million while New York was assigned a rookie pool of $4.37 million, ninth-highest in the league. So Condon and Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi had to squeeze first-pick money for Manning into, roughly, the 2004 salary-cap slot of the fourth overall choice. The result was a wildly complex contract that included a $3 million signing bonus, a $9 million option bonus in 2005, a $3-million roster bonus in 2007 and a $5-million buy-back provision that the Giants probably will have to use to keep Manning under contract in 2008 and 2009.
But Condon and Accorsi worked together and got the deal done, using an all-day final negotiating session to overcome the salary-cap obstacles and get Manning to camp on time to participate in the opening practice.
The Chargers have more salary-cap space than they need to accommodate Rivers's contract, but that hasn't made negotiations any easier. A source familiar with the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity late Monday because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage, said that Sexton once was seeking a deal equal to Manning's but has backed off. Still, he wants more money than the Chargers have been willing to offer. Manning's contract includes $9 million in possible incentives that could make it worth $54 million, and Sexton apparently wants Rivers to be able to earn something close to that in the first six years of his contract.
Schottenheimer, meantime, has been running his camp without Rivers since July 30. Rivers had a legitimate opportunity when camp began to open the season as the starter, but those chances seem to be rapidly diminishing -- if they're not exhausted. Veteran Doug Flutie has undergone arthroscopic knee surgery and Schottenheimer probably will have little choice but to begin the season starting the quarterback -- Drew Brees -- that the Chargers wanted to discard. The only other healthy quarterbacks in camp are Cleo Lemon and Joe Germaine.
Boldin Suffers Leg Injury
Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin suffered a leg injury during morning practice and the team was awaiting word on its severity. Boldin had 101 catches for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns last season as a rookie and is to be paired with Fitzgerald this season.
Winslow Deal in Sight?
Cleveland Browns officials are scheduled to meet tonight with agent Kevin Poston and possibly could reach a contract agreement with tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., the sixth overall pick in the draft. The Winslow camp appears ready to reach a compromise that would enable him to report to camp in the next day or two.
But the process has been tedious. The Washington Redskins decided against using the draft's fifth choice on Winslow in part because of wariness about dealing with his tough-negotiating agents, Kevin Poston and his brother Carl.
Redskins officials privately have been congratulating themselves on selecting Winslow's former University of Miami teammate, safety Sean Taylor. The Redskins signed Taylor, who has fired two agents and been fined for leaving the league's rookie symposium, and he had two interceptions -- scoring one touchdown and preventing another -- in Monday night's exhibition triumph over the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game.
The Browns, meantime, remained frustrated by the Postons' contract demands. The team resorted to issuing a public statement that they had offered Winslow the same deal signed by Taylor -- worth $18 million over seven years, including $13 million in bonuses -- and he rejected it. Taylor's contract could be worth as much as $40 million with incentives. The Postons reportedly have been seeking a deal for Winslow that could be worth more than $50 million over six years, including more than $14 million in bonuses.
The Browns' inexperience at the negotiating table might be showing after an offseason in which Coach Butch Davis consolidated his power following the resignation of club president Carmen Policy. New team president John Collins, formerly the league's marketing guru, and owner Randy Lerner have had active roles in the talks.
The Browns at one point called their proposal a last, best offer, but Collins backed off that and said it merely had been the last, best offer to get Winslow to camp on time.
Tailback Chris Perry, the 26th overall pick in the draft, agreed today to a five-year contract with Cincinnati worth approximately $7 million. Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, the 23rd overall choice, reached a contract agreement with Seattle on Monday and was scheduled to join the Seahawks today.
That leaves three first-rounders -- Rivers, Winslow and New England tight end Ben Watson (No. 32 overall) -- still unsigned. Watson, represented by Condon, could sign today.
In addition, one second-round choice -- Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders, the draft's 44th overall selection -- is unsigned.
Brown to Bucs
Wide receiver Tim Brown, released by the Oakland Raiders last week, has agreed, as expected, to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL source said this morning. He will be reunited with Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden, his former coach in Oakland, and will give Tampa some help at receiver with Keenan McCardell holding out in a contract dispute and Joe Jurevicius sidelined after undergoing back surgery.
Philadelphia reserve quarterback Koy Detmer is scheduled to undergo knee surgery today and be sidelined about two weeks. Free-agent addition Jeff Blake at least temporarily replaces Detmer as Donovan McNabb's top backup. . . . Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse is lobbying to play in Friday's preseason opener at New England even after suffering a sprained left ankle Monday. . . . The Bengals signed free agent defensive tackle Glen Steele to a one-year, $535,000 contract. . . .
The Giants promoted rookie Chris Snee to the starting lineup at right guard, moving David Diehl from right guard to right tackle. Snee is the son-in-law of Giants Coach Tom Coughlin and has had to field questions about his relationship with Coughlin's daughter Katie since the team drafted him in the second round out of Boston College, but other NFL executives call him a legitimate starting-caliber player. . . . The New York Jets plan to play the just-signed Pete Kendall at left guard. He was Arizona's starting center before being abruptly released by Cardinals Coach Dennis Green.
Panthers' O-Line in Flux
The Carolina Panthers spent the offseason rebuilding the offensive line that helped them reach the Super Bowl last season, and planned to start veteran Adam Meadows at right tackle after signing him to a five-year, $15 million contract following his release by the Colts. But the defending NFC champions will have to do more reshuffling after Meadows, 30, decided Monday to retire because of shoulder troubles and returned his entire $2.5 million signing bonus. For now, at least, the Panthers plan to start veteran journeyman Matt Willig at right tackle, with Melvin Tuten backing him up. . . .
Tim Rattay, the would-be starter for the San Francisco 49ers at quarterback, continues to be plagued by soreness in his forearm, keeping him sidelined as he attempts to complete his comeback from offseason surgery for a torn groin muscle. . . .
The Dallas Cowboys are expecting big things from second-year tight end Jason Witten. The former collegiate defensive end at Tennessee led all rookie tight ends with 35 catches last season and he already has caught the eye of veteran Vinny Testaverde, the club's new starter at quarterback. Testaverde "wasn't in camp a day and a half and he said to me, 'That Witten can catch it, can't he?' " said Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells. . . .
A family spokesman confirmed to two New York newspapers that Giants co-owner Robert Tisch has cancer. Newsday and the New York Daily News reported that Tisch, the 78-year-old chairman of the Loews Corp. and the former U.S. postmaster general, has an inoperable brain tumor.