The Chargers and the 2020 Quarterback Carousel
February 20, 2020
The 2020 NFL quarterback carousel has begun, and this year's crop of available quarterbacks could be one of the best in NFL history. The Los Angeles Chargers got this carousel started last week when they mutually agreed to end their sixteen-year relationship with Philip Rivers. The Chargers are one of the many teams that need to answer the question of who will be their starting quarterback on opening day?
Rivers is a free agent and will be playing on a new team in 2020. The speculation is that Rivers will land in Indianapolis with the Colts. The bigger question for the Chargers, is who will replace him? The Chargers have a talented roster and that makes them attractive to a veteran quarterback. But can they afford an expensive veteran quarterback?
The Chargers have about $50 million in salary cap space available for the 2020 season. They need to re-sign tight end Hunter Henry, who is a free agent. That is a critical priority because of Henry's talent and how thin the Chargers are at tight end behind him. The Chargers may have to apply the franchise tag to Henry, which would keep him with the Chargers in 2020. The estimated salary for a tight end under the franchise tag in 2020 is $11 million in guaranteed salary.
The Chargers also need to resign their two running backs, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Gordon is an unrestricted free agent and the Chargers may just let him go due to his salary requirements. Ekeler is a restricted free agent and the Chargers control his destiny for next season. The status of players like Henry, Gordon and Ekeler could be important to a free agent quarterback entertaining the idea of becoming a Charger.
The Chargers have backup Tyrod Taylor on the roster at a very affordable salary of $5 million in 2020. Charger head coach Anthony Lynn recently said in an interview: "Tyrod Taylor is a heck of a quarterback," Lynn said on AM 570 L.A. Sports radio. "We couldn't have a better backup right now, and now he has an opportunity to maybe step up into a starting role."
General Manager Tom Telesco added in a separate interview on the same radio station that, "We do like our internal options right now. Tyrod Taylor is a player that has won in this league and we think he has a style that fits what we can do." Lynn and Telesco may be big fans of Taylor, but is Taylor the starting quarterback that the Chargers want to open the 2020 season with? In their new stadium? Probably not.
The quarterback at the top of everybody's list is Tom Brady. The six-time super bowl champion may not be a realistic option for the Chargers even if he did not resign with the New England Patriots. A rumor has been floated recently that the Las Vegas Raiders are willing to pay Tom Brady $60 million for two years. At age 43, would the Pats be willing to go that high? If the rumor is true, it is likely that neither the Patriots nor the Chargers would pay that much for Brady.
The free-agent list after Brady consists of quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Dak Prescott. Tannehill will likely resign with the Tennessee Titans and Prescott will likely resign with the Cowboys. The other options are interesting but nothing earth shattering.
The best options at quarterback may be available through trades. The Carolina Panthers are rebuilding and appear to be ready to move on from quarterback Cam Newton. The 2015 NFL MVP has one year remaining on his contract at about $19 million. Newton has been battling injuries the past two seasons and could be available for a 3rd round pick. Newton, like Brady, would be the kind of player that could help sell tickets for the Chargers in their new venue.
Other options in the via the trade market could include Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions and possibly even Nick Foles of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dalton is in the final year of a contract that pays him 17.7 million. He likely will not start this season, since the Bengals have the No. 1 pick in the draft and will likely draft quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU with the pick. Dalton has thrown for over 30,000 yards in his career, is a three-time pro bowl quarterback and took the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-2015.
At age 33, Dalton might be a good option for one or two seasons. The challenge facing the Chargers is that they are in a division with Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Brady could be playing for the Raiders. The AFC West could be toughest division in the NFL next season and the Chargers need a quarterback that can keep them competitive, sell tickets and sell hope to their fans.