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NFL AM: Chargers Lock Up Rivers Favorite Keenan Allen With Extension

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The San Diego Chargers made quarterback Philip Rivers a happy man on Friday, inking his No. 1 wideout to an extension that will keep them together for the next several years.

San Diego announced that they have signed wide receiver Keenan Allen to a four-year extension reportedly worth more than $44 million. The 24-year old Allen is coming off an interesting 2015 campaign that saw him post gaudy numbers over the first eight games of the year before his season was unfortunately cut short by a lacerated kidney.

Despite that, Allen finished the 2015 season with 67 catches, a number that, when totaled over just eight games, marked the third most in league history. He also logged 725 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns over the first half of the year. Those numbers nearly matched the ones he had put up in 2014 (77-783-4) in nearly twice as many games.

The Chargers clearly love what they’ve seen out of Allen, who re-emerged as the team’s top wide receiver and quarterback Philip Rivers’ favorite target again last season. With the freak injury behind him, Allen could be primed for an even bigger breakout in 2016 that would put him among the league’s elite receivers, a club he was well on pace to join last season. And to make things easier on him and give him more room to roam, San Diego also added wide receiver Travis Benjamin this offseason, giving Rivers and the Chargers passing game a potent 1-2 punch for the first time in several years.

Allen was San Diego’s leading receiver as a rookie, and helped them reach the second round of the playoffs. But he took a bit of a step back during his second season and the Chargers suffered as a result. However, he rediscovered the things that made him an impact player in year three and he credited his growing relationship with Rivers as crucial piece to the success of both players.

“We’ve built up a trust over the years,” Allen said a few weeks ago. “His confidence in me helps me play better. It makes me not think as much and lets me just play my game. When I get in my groove, I do feel like nobody can stop me. And that’s because I know all I have to do is get to my spot and Philip will get me the ball. I think he’s helped me become a more disciplined player.”

Rivers signed a four-year extension of his own last August that is expected to keep him in a Bolts uniform through the 2019 season. With Rivers, Allen and Benjamin in place, and running back Melvin Gordon primed to take a step forward after a disappointing rookie season, the Chargers have the foundational pieces in place for a terrific offense for years to come.

A lot of that will hinge on how high the ceiling is on Allen. With a new extension in hand, the talented wideout will be looking to build on his breakout start to 2015 and extend it out for a full season as the Chargers try to move back up in what should be a loaded and wide-open AFC West in 2016.

BRONCOS WORKING ON OWN EXTENSIONS

Next week marks the end of OTA and minicamp practices for the teams that have not already completed their team activities, at which point we begin a six-week crawl toward training camp.

But that push toward the 2016 season won’t be completely uneventful, as it’s also prime time for teams and some of their best players to hammer out contract extensions before the terms become an in-season distraction for both the player and the franchise. The Chargers became the latest team to make a move in that direction with the extension for Allen, but they won’t be the last.

Elsewhere in the AFC West, the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos are likewise trying to workout contract extensions with several of the key pieces to their championship team. Much has been made of the back and forth between the team and linebacker Von Miller, as they are still at an impasse with Miller currently being held under the franchise tag. However, Miller isn’t the only Bronco in line to break the bank this summer.

Denver is currently trying to workout an extension with restricted free agent linebacker Brandon Marshall, who received a $2.553 million, one-year RFA tender from the team earlier in the offseason that he has until Wednesday to sign. But Marshall and the team would both prefer to work out something that will keep the linebacker in Denver long-term, and that Wednesday deadline should force both sides back to the table this week to get something done.

A little less pressing but still on the agenda for Denver is a contract extension for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The 29-year-old, who was a bit of an afterthought over four seasons in Pittsburgh has been one of the league’s premier wide receivers over the last two seasons in Denver and is about to enter the final year of the three-year, $15 million deal he signed in 2014 that has proven to be one of general manager John Elway’s most impressive moves.

But neither side really wants the prolific wideout to reach the open market again. This is particularly true of the Broncos, who know what they have in a combination of Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, who signed an extension last summer. But Sanders too has expressed total interest in remaining in Denver despite the team’s shaky future at the quarterback position.

“Obviously, my heart is in Denver, this city has been so good to me beyond what I can explain,” Sanders told 9NEWS’ last week. “I want to retire a Bronco. I think everyone wants to know, but it’s all about being able to say, ‘I’m getting paid what I put out.’ I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ve expressed that to Elway. It’s all about just getting the right number. I pray that they do come to the right number. I think I’ve given my heart to this city. I’ve never left anything on the field.”

That number is likely to fall somewhere in the neighborhood of what Keenan Allen just got from the Chargers and Allen Hurns got from the Jacksonville Jaguars, both checking in around $10-$11 million annually on four-year extensions. Although with much bigger numbers to tout over the last two seasons, it’s not hard to see Sanders possibly pushing away from that tier and closer to the $14 million annually his teammate Thomas got on his five-year, $70 million extension last summer.

Expect Denver to come to terms with Marshall and Sanders soon, and then fix their attention back to Miller, who has threatened to sit out the 2016 season if an extension isn’t reached and he’s forced to play under the franchise tag. Similar tactics have been utilized by other star players, as recently as last year between the Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys, but they rarely get to the breaking point where guys are missing games, or even much training camp time. This situation with Miller could break that trend, but we’ll believe it when we see it.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys