Chargers, Giants close to deal
Manning says he'd play anywhere but San Diego
By Mark Maske
NEW YORK - The New York Giants were making progress Friday toward completing a trade with the San Diego Chargers to obtain the top overall choice in the NFL draft today and use it to select University of Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning, sources familiar with the deliberations said.
Both teams continued to play down the seriousness of the talks during the day, but sources said the sides were within striking distance of a deal early Friday night and were working to complete it late Friday night or today.
One person close to the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he didn't want to be viewed as scuttling the deal by discussing it publicly, said there still was a chance the trade could fall apart, but he expected it to be completed, adding that the clubs were in contact during the day but had resolved to maintain publicly that nothing was happening in case the deal unraveled.
The Giants would get the top selection and use it on Manning, who has informed the Chargers he doesn't want to play for them, while San Diego would receive the fourth overall pick and use it on North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers, the source said.
Another source said the trade was alive, but the Chargers officials who were pushing for it had to overcome the final obstacle of convincing team president Dean Spanos to sign off on passing up the opportunity to draft Manning. If Spanos insists on keeping the first pick and drafting Manning over the quarterback's objections, sources said, the Giants were making plans to choose Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the fourth selection, and Rivers would face the possibility of falling down the first-round order a bit.
It was not clear what the final parameters of the Giants-Chargers trade would be if it's completed, but the teams had been contemplating a deal in which San Diego would receive a second-round pick today and either a second-round choice next year or wide receiver Ike Hilliard in exchange for moving down from the first to the fourth selection.
Manning said earlier in the day that the Chargers had made no attempt to reconcile with him after his agent, Tom Condon, informed the team the Manning camp wanted to see the pick traded to the Giants.
"We've done everything we could do," Manning said at a midday media session. "We've made our comments. I'm not in control of what happens next. Everything has been said, and now it's over with. . . . There are a number of things that can happen. I just have to sit and wait. Some decisions have to be made by the Chargers. . . . I'm confident we're doing the right thing."
Manning said there was "just one" team he didn't want to play for, adding: "Any other team is fine. . . . We feel strongly about this."
He said he would attend the draft but hadn't decided whether he would hold up a Chargers jersey if San Diego takes him. Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer said Thursday he thought the most likely outcome was that San Diego would retain the pick and select Manning, but he didn't rule out a trade.
Manning declined to say whether he would sit out next season if the Chargers take him. He said the decision to spurn the Chargers was his and defended his father, Archie, who has taken many of the public hits for the tactics because he met with Schottenheimer on Tuesday and has done the bulk of talking publicly about the situation.
"This was not my dad's decision," Eli Manning said. "The Chargers called my dad. They asked him to be involved. Everything he said was what Tom Condon already had told the Chargers. It's a tough thing for my dad. He didn't have to get involved. He wasn't involved. He kind of got thrown into it."
The other top players in the draft were divided about Manning's approach. "He's a great player," Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "I'm not in his situation. I can't say I wouldn't do that. I would definitely try to. He has the power right now. He's the best player. It's been done before. I can't be mad at the guy."
Roethlisberger said: "I guess it's something they wanted to do, the agent and Mr. Manning. He can get all this attention now because once we get on the field, it's going to be my time to shine, and I'm going to show people I can play football, too. . . . I would never do it - never - because growing up, the dream was to play in the NFL, not to play for a certain team. I just want an opportunity to play."
The Oakland Raiders, who have the second pick, were keeping other teams guessing about whether they would trade down or stay put and take Iowa left tackle Robert Gallery, Roethlisberger or a wide receiver from between Texas's Roy Williams and Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald. The Cleveland Browns, who have the seventh choice, desperately were trying to trade up for Gallery. "I don't know where I'm going to end up," Gallery said. "It could be number one. It could be number seven or anywhere in between, I guess."
Virtually everyone in the league, it seemed, expected the Arizona Cardinals to go with Fitzgerald if he's available for the third pick. The Houston Texans and New England Patriots apparently wanted to trade up for Miami safety Sean Taylor, and the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to move up for Oregon State tailback Steven Jackson.
There also could be some trades of veteran players this weekend, with the Green Bay Packers attempting to get quarterback Tim Couch from the Browns and the Dallas Cowboys shopping guard Larry Allen to the Raiders, Detroit Lions and other teams.
© 2004 Journal Gazette and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.