Financial concerns are an unfortunate reality of everyday life in the NFL. The salary cap world has led to a better on-field product and more parody throughout the league, but as a result reams have found it difficult to build and sustain success for long periods of time.
For the San Diego Chargers, these fiscal issues manifested as fallout from the final season under the watch of former general manager A.J. Smith. In his final desperate attempt to save his job and retool the team on the fly without spending big bucks on one player (Vincent Jackson), Smith decided instead to sign a hoard of lower budget players to make up for this loss.
The result? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been pretty.
Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal were signed in tandem for the same amount it would have taken to bring back Jackson last offseason, and their combined production paled in comparison to his. On the offensive line, rather than drafting an adequate replacement for stalwarts Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman who were both forced into early retirement, GM Smith used a former fourth round pick in Tyronne Green and completely overspent on an overrated and lazy Jared Gaither.
Now with new GM Tom Telesco in town, things are at least heading in the right direction.
Gaither was cut loose, Royal could face the same fate with a lackluster training camp, and Meachem would cost more to let go than to hang on to for 2013. Even though the cap situation is much more upbeat than it was just a few short months ago when the former GM was let go, the Bolts still don’t have much wiggle room. There are only four teams in a worse position in relation to the cap as the Chargers have just $3,127,666 in cap room remaining.
Perhaps the biggest issue looming in San Diego is the status of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. Once billed as an elite signal caller, Rivers has fallen on hard times of late and hasn’t lived up to the enormous contract that he signed in 2009 in recent seasons. His cap number is going to balloon significantly next season up to $17.11 million which is just part of the final two years of his deal set to pay him $29.55 million.
While new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt have been nothing but upbeat about the incumbent quarterback since coming on board, one can’t help but think Rivers may be on the chopping block following this season. If released following this season, only $1.2 million of his contract would count against the 2014 salary cap; the rest of it would all come off of the books. It may seem like putting the cart before the horse with Rivers not even taking a snap yet in 2013, but it never hurts to be prepared.
Clearly the situation for the Chargers isn’t ideal in the salary cap world of the NFL looking forward, but the team has options after this season. It seems very likely that some high-priced veterans could be heading to the unemployment line when the 2013 season comes to an end.