LA Chargers Look to Make Changes
After 5-11 Season will Philip Rivers Remain at Quarterback
January 9, 2020
The 2019 season for the Los Angeles Chargers is over and now starts what should be a fascinating offseason in search of answers to questions. There will be player changes and coaching changes. There may be some retirements among the players. There will be key free agents to resign and new players added to the roster. But the elephant in the room will be at the quarterback position.
The biggest issue the Chargers need to resolve in the offseason is their offensive line. The offensive line struggled, and they need to look to free agency and the draft to try to quickly address this area of the offense. But the focus of the offseason will be at quarterback. Quarterback Philip Rivers is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. He has started 224 consecutive games at quarterback for the Chargers and he wants to continue in that role in 2020.
The Chargers could simply bring Rivers back for another season and that would end this discussion over next year's starting quarterback. Rivers threw for 4,615 yards in 2019, which put him at 4th in the NFL in passing yardage. It was his seventh straight season with over 4,000 yard passing yards. At age 38, he looks like he can still play at a high level. A year ago, General Manager Tom Telesco said of the Rivers impending free agency that, "He's not going anywhere."
After this season, Telesco seemed to be a little less certain: "In a perfect world, No. 17 is your quarterback forever. He has meant everything to this organization. He has been here a long time... he's a joy to work with. Nobody has a better perspective on what goes on - not only just him, but with the football team - than he does. I can see why he is going to be a great coach when he is done playing.''
So, what has changed in a year? The interceptions could be one issue. Rivers threw twenty interceptions this past season and made some bad decisions in close games. But there may be something else going on. New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady is an unrestricted free agent, is selling his home in Brookline, Massachusetts and has not committed to returning to the Patriots. He could be headed to the west coast.
Brady will be 43 years old at the start of next season. He threw for 4,057 yards, with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2019. Playing indoors in the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood might fit him well at age 43. As a six-time super bowl champions and perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time, what Brady would do for the Chargers is help sell tickets in their new stadium. The Chargers need to create a buzz going into their new stadium and bringing in Brady would accomplish that.
The other thing that he could give them at their new stadium is a real home-field advantage. They did not have that at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, which held about 25,000. SoFi Stadium will have a capacity of about 70,000 fans. Brady could bring a huge increase in fans supporting the Chargers. The Chargers still need to fix their offensive line, but the receiving talent on the Chargers is much better than what Brady had this past season with the Patriots.
Both Rivers and Brady would work for 2020, but neither addresses the quarterback position long term. That could be addressed in the 2020 NFL draft. The Chargers, dues to their 5-11 record this season, will have the No. 6 pick in the first round. That pick could be used on a quarterback. The top quarterback in the draft is Joe Burrow of LSU, who is likely going to Cincinnati with the first pick.
The Chargers will be in an excellent position to draft either Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama or Justin Herbert of Oregon. Both quarterbacks are rated in the top 15 in the draft, although Tagovailoa is recovering from a hip injury that may affect his ability to play in 2020. But neither quarterback is ready to start in the NFL. They will need time behind a veteran quarterback. Or the Chargers could add a free agent, such as Marcus Mariota of Tennessee or Teddy Bridgewater of New Orleans, to backup the starter.
No matter who the quarterback is, the Chargers need to re-sign tight end Hunter Henry, an unrestricted free agent. Henry, a 2nd round pick of the Chargers in 2016, is one of the better young tight ends in the NFL. Surprisingly, running back Melvin Gordon wants to return to the Chargers. He is also an unrestricted free agent. Keeping Henry and Gordon on the roster would be welcome by all Charger quarterbacks.