In football, maybe more than in any other sport, players are hyperaware of their market value and set it by their closest contemporaries. Philip Rivers re-upped with the Chargers this weekend, and no one is poring over his contract numbers more than Eli Manning and the Giants. And according to one report, Manning wants the Giants to offer him more than Rivers—and more than any other player in the league.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport, the ongoing, seemingly interminable extension talks between Manning and the Giants hit a new snag with the announcement of Rivers’s four-year deal with $65 million guaranteed—which could be an NFL record depending on how the guarantees shake out. There is a “significant gap” between the sides, because Manning wants more than Rivers got.
This is the risk the Giants ran in waiting so long to agree with Manning. The going rates for franchise QB contracts are determined in bunches: the extensions signed by the ‘11/’12 draft classes of Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Tannehill, and Russell Wilson all informed each other. Manning’s contract will be in the same ballpark as those of Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, his 2004 draftmates. Does he deserve that much more than the other two? That’s debatable, but nothing is harder to replace in today’s NFL than a competent quarterback. Teams will happily overpay for that stability, because it can take a painfully long time to replace it.
Manning has some leverage. This is the last year on his current deal, and if the Giants franchise him in 2016 he’ll stand to make $25 million—which would be an AAV record.
The likely outcome is that Manning and the Giants get creative and come up with something that lets everyone claim it’s an all-time high even if it functionally isn’t—say, something that gives him the most in non-injury guarantees, or the most up-front, without surpassing Aaron Rodgers for the highest annual salary. No one expects a deal not to get done, but the Giants would love to do it before the season starts. Because if it has to wait until next spring, Andrew Luck will probably have done his extension by then, and it’ll take some real creativity to find a way for Manning to surpass that inevitable monster deal.