After 224 consecutive starts and 16 seasons, of which the last fourteen have been as a starter, Philip Rivers‘ run as a San Diego and Los Angeles Charger looks to finally be over. So what next for him?
At age 38, it would be fair to ask if Rivers has enough in the tank to carry on playing at the highest level.
The 2019 season was filled with big expectations for the Chargers and they fell flat on their faces, posting a dreadfully disappointing 5-11 record. Rivers played his part in that, giving up a career worst 20 interceptions that ranked 30th in the league, with only Baker Mayfield and Jameis Winston throwing more. He only managed 23 touchdown passes too, his lowest haul since 2007.
As the season went on, questions did begin to be asked if Rivers was in regression. A look at his other numbers do show otherwise though. His 66% completion rate ranked 10th in the NFL, he threw for 4,615 yards (4th), averaged 288.4 yards per game (6th) and 7.8 yards per attempt (11th). It should be noted that Rivers can’t take all credit for this as he had a talented group of receivers including Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry at his disposal.
At the same time, the blame for the Chargers failed season should not land squarely at the feet of the veteran quarterback. He played behind an offensive line that ranked 29th in the league, a terrible performance and an indictment on GM Tom Telesco, who knew before the season that any injury to Russell Okung would be devastating to that unit. Okung, rather inevitably, ended up missing the first ten games of the season and didn’t perform well when he did return. Along with poor tackle play from Trent Scott and Sam Tevi, who allowed a league high 88 pressures, Rivers was up against it from the off.
If he is to carry on, there is no doubt he will have options. Here’s a look at a few of the teams who could use Rivers in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rivers has recently moved his family across country from Southern California to Florida, so it is easy to speculate that one of the three Floridian teams will show interest in him. The Miami Dolphins are in full rebuild mode and will likely draft a QB to play behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a year. The Jags have a huge amount of cap space invested in Nick Foles and also got a promising year from rookie Gardner Minshew too.
So, that leaves the Bucs.
It’s not just the process of elimination that leads us to Tampa though. Jameis Winston is out of contract and it is very much up in the air as to whether or not Bruce Arians and the Bucs hierarchy are willing to pay him what he wants to come back. Arians has a long established reputation as a quarterback whisperer, respected for his work with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. Palmer particularly enjoyed a resurgence in the later years of his career under Arians and that will be attractive to Rivers.
The Buccs’ offensive line needs improvement but they have $91 million in cap space to work with. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cameron Braithwaite and OJ Howard make up an uber talented receiving corps too. Evans and Godwin in particular represent outstanding deep threats, averaging a combined 16.9 yards per catch. The Buccs could be a great match for a gunslinger like Rivers.
The Bears have elite level talent on defence with the likes of Khalil Mack, Akeem Hicks and Eddie Jackson. If that unit can stay healthy it would certainly relieve some of the pressure on Rivers if the Bears were to sign him.
On offence they aren’t as talented as the Buccaneers, but Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel are undoubtedly a solid group for Rivers to work with. The Bears are less likely to sign Rivers as it would mean having to make a difficult decision regarding the incumbent quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky. Despite a poor sophomore season in the NFL, the upside Trubisky showed in his rookie year may persuade the Bears to stick with him.
The Colts are likely the best fit of the lot for Rivers from a team perspective.
The tremendous potential they showed in 2018 was cruelly stunted with the shock retirement of Andrew Luck, but there’s plenty of talent remaining on this roster to suggest they’re not far away.
In Quentin Nelson and Anthony Castonzo at the left guard and tackle spots, they can provide Rivers with elite blind side blocking to go with a improving ground attack spearheaded by Marlon Mack. T.Y Hilton is an excellent wide receiver and Darius Leonard has established himself as a top class defensive leader in his first two seasons.
Rivers has experience of working with Frank Reich too, having had a three year stint together with the Chargers. With $96 million in cap space, the Colts could spend to put more weapons around Rivers too. They have Jacoby Brissett, but Rivers would be a certain upgrade.
Geographically the Titans would certainly appeal to Rivers as it would mean he could stay close to his hometown in Alabama. This is more of a long shot as Ryan Tannehill performed so well down the stretch that he should get a new contract in Nashville.
New England Patriots
If, and that is a huge if, Tom Brady does leave Foxborough, Rivers is capable of keeping the Patriots competitive with Belichick and McDaniels leading the way. Highly unlikely though as it is expected Belichick would rather go the way of a younger quarterback in the post Brady years.