San Diego Chargers salary cap outlook: Bargains and busts at wide receiver

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the San Diego Chargers.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $123.014 million (7th-lowest figure in the NFL)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $3.128 million (5th-lowest total in the NFL, as of July 12, 2013)

Best Bargain: Last September, the Chargers signed wide receiver Malcom Floyd to a three-year, $11.55 million extension that included $5.25 million in guarantees. In 14 games, Floyd caught 56 passes for 814 yards with five touchdowns and was tenth in Football Outsiders' receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. Floyd will earn $4.25 million in cash in 2013, but his $2.667 million cap hit is just 46th among NFL wide receivers in 2013 and is the third-highest cap hit among the Chargers' receiving corps, trailing free agent busts Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal.

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: Forty NFL wide receivers (including the two unsigned first-round wide receivers) are scheduled to earn $3 million or more in cash compensation in 2013. That list includes Royal, who joined the Chargers on March 16, 2012 on a three-year, $13.5 million that included $6 million in guaranteed money. According to official NFL playing-time documents, Royal played in 26.6 percent of the Chargers' offensive snaps, totaling 23 receptions, 234 yards and one touchdown in 10 games. With the addition of third-round pick Keenan Allen to the receiving corps, Royal will need an impressive preseason, particularly on punt returns, just to make the 53-man roster. If Royal does make the team, the Chargers will likely seek to reduce his $3 million base salary and $3.875 million cap hit.

Meachem was even less effective as Royal, playing nearly 40 percent of the snaps and catching 14 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Meachem could be jettisoned, as well, but that would not provide much cap relief as his $5 million base salary for the 2013 season is fully guaranteed.

Looming Contract Issue: In 2008, Philip Rivers led the NFL in passing touchdowns, yards per attempt and quarterback rating. Before the start of the 2009 season, Rivers was signed to a six-year, $91.8 million extension with $38.15 million in guaranteed money. Rivers, who turns 32 in December, is still completing over 60 percent of his passes for around 4,000 yards and 25-30 touchdown passes annually, but his interceptions are up and his mobility has decreased. Rivers was one of two NFL quarterbacks to take all of his team's offensive snaps last season (Andrew Luck was the other) and with Charlie Whitehurst and 2013 seventh-round pick Brad Sorensen behind him on the depth chart, the Chargers will need another "iron man" season from Rivers, whose cap number soars to $17.11 million this season.

Rivers is scheduled to earn $29.55 million in cash over 2014-15, the final two seasons of the contract. Because the Chargers haven't touched Rivers' deal since it was signed in 2009, there is only $1.2 million in prorated amounts that would accelerate onto their 2014 salary cap if Rivers were released after this season, saving the Chargers $13.8 million in cap space next year.

Danario Alexander had a major impact in 2012, catching 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. In terms of advanced metrics, the 6-foot-5, 221-pound Alexander was among the Top 20 wide receivers in Football Outsiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric and was No. 1 in FO's DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). Alexander appears to be playing out the 2013 season on a non-guaranteed, $1.323 million restricted free agent tender and will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. The issue with Alexander is purely medical as the former University of Missouri standout has undergone multiple knee surgeries, procedures that kept him from being selected in the 2010 draft.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Chargers currently have 70 players under contract for the 2014 season. The "Top 51" contracts total around $124 million in salary cap commitments and the team will still carry an additional $4 million next season after designating Jared Gaither as a "post-June 1" release.

Previous salary cap outlooks

32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets

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