Eli Manning, Big Ben Have Been Paid, Only Philip Rivers Remains
But everything has worked out: the Giants made a draft-day trade for Manning, sending Philip Rivers (and draft picks that would become Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding) to San Diego. And after a rocky first three years in the league, it all came together for Eli midway through the 2007 season ... all the way through the Super Bowl.
Now, some 18 months later, he's $97.5 million richer. A year ago, the Steelers extended Ben Roethlisberger, two-time Super Bowl champ, which means that Rivers is the only quarterback from the top of the 2004 draft class who has yet to cash in. (Just so there's no confusion: "top of the 2004 draft class" includes the first 11 selections. So, right, when the Bills traded back into the first round to take J.P. Losman with the 22nd pick, that doesn't count. Just in case it wasn't obvious.) He's also the only one without a Super Bowl ring.
But hardware aside, Rivers was the best quarterback of the three in 2008, at least according to Football Outsiders' advanced stats. Last season, Rivers ranked third in the league in total value and second in terms of value per play. (Eli was ninth and ninth, and Big Ben was 23rd and 27th).
Even if Rivers has been more consistent, though, Manning and Roethlisberger have seminal moments in their careers that define them professionally. For Eli, it was David Tyree's one-hand-against-his-helmet grab that set up the Super Bowl-winning score. For Big Ben, it was the back-of-the-end-zone "that's definitely an intercep--- ohmygodsantonio caught it" touchdown pass. For Rivers? Jawing at Jay Cutler? That's not entirely his fault, but right or wrong, it might have something to do with the fact that he hasn't yet gotten a contract extension.
Championships aside, though, that will change. In a column for Football Outsiders, J.I. Halsell writes that, "... Rivers' 33-15 record as a starter shows that he's not just putting up numbers but also leading his team to victories, just like his quarterback peers of the 2004 draft class. Given the contracts given to Manning and Roethlisberger and given Rivers' statistics and win-loss record, it would not be unreasonable for a Rivers contract to approach $40 million guaranteed and $100 million in new money."
I can't imagine San Diego wouldn't pay Rivers, but if the two sides can't come to an agreement, he will have very little trouble finding work. And that would pave the way for the Chargers to usher in the Will Nunn era. So there's that.