Weeks of stop-and-start negotiations, fueled by a dose of public acrimony and a touch of intransigence on the part of San Diego officials, ended Monday night with the Chargers and first-round pick Philip Rivers finally reaching a contract agreement.
The accord ends a stalemate during which the former North Carolina State quarterback missed two preseason games and approximately 30 training camp practices.
Rivers will sign a six-year contract and ESPN.com has confirmed that the base value is $41 million. The deal includes roughly $18 million-$19 million in guaranteed money ($14.275 million signing bonus plus other guarantees) and an additional $11 million in incentives.
The contract was officially executed Tuesday, and Rivers suited up for practice for the first time since minicamps.
The two sides moved closer to an agreement Monday afternoon, after agent Jimmy Sexton sent the Chargers two more proposals beyond those he offered late last week. Early in the evening, there were positive signs that the momentum seemed to be moving toward an agreement, but sources cautioned there were still some potential deal-breaker issues that needed to be resolved.
By about 9:30 p.m., however, those elements were hammered out and a deal was struck. The impasse ended when the Chargers moved some money around to get it to Rivers a bit earlier in the contract. The two sides also agreed to remove some preposterous incentives that Rivers would never have realized. The $11 million incentive package that is part of final deal is based on elements like taking the team to the playoffs, ranking among the top five passers in key statistical categories and playoff appearances.
"I'm glad to be back here doing the part of football that I love," said Rivers, who agreed to terms late Monday. "(The holdout) was something that I'm not used to and it's a tough, long
process, but it's over and I'm excited to be back practicing [on Tuesday].
"You're a little anxious and uncertain when you've been out of practice for that long, but I thought it went well. The guys welcomed me back well, which I'm happy about."
The fourth prospect chosen overall, Rivers was dealt to the Chargers, who held the top pick in the draft, for fellow quarterback Eli Manning in arguably the most unusual draft-day trade in modern league history.
The pace to Monday's negotiations, and the optimism the dialogue fueled as the day wore on, was somewhat surprising, considering that Chargers management last Friday rejected three proposals by Sexton. Those proposals essentially jump-started dormant negotiations. The two sides had not spoken, though, over the weekend.
In fact, there has been more silence than significant bargaining, especially by the team, over the course of the past month. Talks had stalled on Aug. 8, when Chargers officials publicly announced that Rivers missed a deadline for agreeing to their "final" offer. General manager A.J. Smith suggested that he would begin removing money from the Chargers' offer at that point and that really stymied progress.
The public stance of the Chargers set off a war of words with Sexton, who rarely speaks to the media, firing back at the team. It also sent Rivers, who had remained in the San Diego area to that point, back home to North Carolina to work privately on conditioning. There ensued a week-long hiatus in the negotiations.
An optimistic Rivers returned to San Diego early last week, perhaps in advance of what he felt might be a pending agreement.
"This is a fair deal for Philip and the Chargers," said Smith. "We're just happy to have negotiations behind us and a bright future ahead for Philip."
Rivers, 22, is one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history and his 51 career starts are a record at the college level. He completed 1,087 of 1,710 passes for 13,484 yards, with 95 touchdown passes and just 34 interceptions. His passing yardage and total all-purpose yards (13,582) are both the second-most in NCAA history and his 95 touchdown passes are the fifth most.
The San Diego staff became enamored of Rivers while coaching him in the Senior Bowl. While he has an unusual release, Rivers gets the ball where it has to be, and with uncanny accuracy.
It was anticipated that Rivers would challenge incumbent Drew Brees for the starter's job, but that is unlikely now, given the amount of camp time he missed.
Long holdouts by first-round choices are hardly new to the San Diego franchise. The average signing date for the team's five previous first-rounders was Aug. 23. The club and Rivers held true to form, since Monday's date was Aug. 23.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.