By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
One piece of the 2020 offseason quarterback puzzle has been put into place. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the Los Angeles Chargers have decided they will be moving on from quarterback Philip Rivers this offseason. Rivers' contract is set to expire when the new league year begins on March 18.
The fourth overall draft pick in 2004, Rivers has started every game for the Chargers since replacing Drew Brees at the start of the 2006 season. He is the franchise leader in every major statistical passing category. Rivers led the then-San Diego Chargers to four consecutive AFC West titles from 2006-2009, including a 2007 AFC Championship appearance where they lost to a record-setting 2007 Patriots team.
Since that run, it's been a rough go of it for Rivers and the Chargers. The team has only one double-digit winning season in the last 10 years (12 wins in 2018), and just two playoff appearances, both of which ended in the divisional round.
For the Chargers, the timing is right to move on. The 38-year-old Rivers is coming off a season that saw him post his lowest passer rating since 2007. His 23 touchdowns were the fewest he'd thrown in 12 years, and he paired that number with 20 interceptions, the second most he's ever thrown in a season. The Chargers are expected to have over $53 million in cap space, as well as the sixth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. With no obvious replacements on the roster (the Chargers other quarterbacks under contract are Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick), the question becomes will LA use the money or the draft pick(s) to find their new starting QB?
If the Chargers chose to go out and pay an established veteran to come take the reins in LA, Tom Brady could fit the bill. The team is moving into a brand-new, $5 billion stadium next season and needs a reason for people to buy tickets. They have the money to pay Brady comfortably, and the assets needed to help put pieces around him. If Brady can get past the idea of playing for a coach like Anthony Lynn (or if Lynn is replaced), there could be mutual interest on both sides.
As for Rivers, he may have to wait to find his next football home. With an unprecedentedly deep class of quarterback free agents set to hit the market, it will take other pieces falling into place before teams come calling. Brady, Drew Brees (if he doesn't retire), and Dak Prescott (if the Cowboys don't pay him before the deadline) all project to receive more interest. Then there is a tier of younger quarterbacks such as Ryan Tannehill (if the Titans don't pay him before the deadline), Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota. There's a real chance teams would rather take the upside on a less experienced arm than the 38-year-old Rivers. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decide to move on from Winston, Rivers would be a solid fit in Bruce Arians' offense. The Titans could also make sense if they don't bring back Tannehill or Mariota.
Even though it will sting for Chargers fans seeing their starting quarterback of 14 years leave, it should be viewed as an encouraging sign that the franchise is committed to being aggressive in digging out of a hole of decade-long mediocrity. As for Rivers? One of the great quarterbacks of his era is now faced with the decision of joining a new team for the first time in his 16-year career, or hanging up his cleats.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth