That big Philip Rivers-for-Eli Manning trade the San Diego Chargers pulled off on draft day 2004 is now essentially a one-for-one deal.
Kicker Nate Kaeding, obtained with one of the three draft picks the Chargers got that day along with Rivers, was released from injured reserve Tuesday and became a free agent.
He’ll collect $1.1 million in termination pay.
The two other players the Chargers obtained with picks from the Rivers-Manning trade, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and left tackle Roman Oben, are long gone.
”You get drafted, but you’re not going to last somewhere forever,” Kaeding said. ”I think they got some decent mileage out of those draft picks.”
While Rivers remains in San Diego, the Bolts haven’t come close to getting what the Giants got with Manning — two Super Bowl titles.
Kaeding was taken with a third-round pick in 2004, Merriman with a first-round pick in 2005 and Oben was acquired from Tampa Bay on June 9, 2004, in exchange for the 2005 fifth-round pick the Chargers got from the Giants.
The Chargers took Manning with the first overall pick in 2004 and then made the deal with New York less than an hour later. Three days earlier, agent Tom Condon called the Chargers to say that Archie Manning wished that the Chargers would not use the No. 1 pick on his son.
Kaeding is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, having made 180 of 207 field goal attempts in the regular season, or 87 percent.
However, he’ll be mostly remembered for the ones he didn’t make in the playoffs.
He missed three field goals in a 17-14 home playoff loss to the New York Jets in January 2010, San Diego’s last postseason appearance. As a rookie, he was wide right on a 40-yard attempt on a wet field in overtime that would have beaten the Jets in a playoff game following the 2004 season. The Jets moved down the field and won it 20-17 on Doug Brien’s 27-yarder.
Kaeding was just 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) in eight playoff games.
The furthest the Chargers have gotten in the playoffs since the Rivers-Manning trade was the AFC championship game in January 2008. They lost to the then-perfect Patriots, who in turn lost to Manning’s Giants in the Super Bowl.
”It’s disappointing for everybody,” Kaeding said. ”That’s why you play, is to get to the Super Bowl. That’s your No. 1 objective. If not, you have no business being around. We didn’t play well enough to get it done.”
Kaeding was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 22 with a groin injury. The Chargers said then he’d be released when he was healthy.
Kaeding was hurt in practice on Sept. 28, two days before a game at Kansas City. The Chargers signed kicker Nick Novak that day.
Kaeding said he felt healthy and ready to go last week.
”I took the bye week as an extra week to get extra work on rehabbing my leg and the rest of my body,” he said. ”I came in fully expecting to play the Cleveland game, to kick Monday, Wednesday and Friday in practice and then jump on a plane and play. Obviously the team had other plans.”
The Chargers lost 7-6 to the Browns, their third straight defeat.
Kaeding made all seven field goal attempts this season. Last year, he blew out his left knee trying to make a tackle on the season’s opening kickoff.
Kaeding said he’s been working with former Chargers and Saints kicker John Carney and intends to stay ready for another chance to kick.
”It’s mostly a waiting game,” Kaeding said. ”It’s a week-to-week league, which I learned the hard way last year with my ACL. I’m just going to stay ready, try to stay patient and on top of my game.
”I’m certainly proud of the track record I have,” he said. ”There are no accidents in this league and it’s a good measure of success. I’m confident and hopeful that I’ll get another chance here down the road.”
San Diego (3-4), which has lost three straight, hosts Kansas City (1-6) on Thursday night.