Home Is Where the Heart Is
As we all know by now, Philip Rivers is moving on from the Chargers after 16 seasons, the last 14 of which he was the starter. While Rivers may go down as one of the gutsiest quarterbacks of his time to play the game, his career overall has fallen short of many expectations. Nonetheless, he has had a long career while gaining many accomplishments. Eight Pro-Bowl selections, Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, and the NFL passing yards leader in 2010 to name a few. Many places have been rumored to have interest in signing the 38-year-old quarterback to a short-term deal to help stop the bleeding of their own quarterback needs and simultaneously help the old Chargers leader to hopefully retire on his own terms. I will be reviewing some of these possibilities and some of the reasons that he may and may not land in one of these locations.
The Family Aspects
Before I dip into the X’s and O’s of the free agency options, I want to remind you of the personal and family aspect of this decision. This is something that Philip and his family with certainly have on their minds. Rivers and his wife Tiffany have nine children, all of which have spent their childhood being in Southern California. Philip and Tiffany themselves grew up in a warmer climate in Alabama. This is where most of their families reside. Now, it is hard for any of us to be able to relate to a decision like this. Rivers’ net career earnings are approaching $200 million dollars so he doesn’t have to play another down and can choose to live wherever he wants, but since he does want to play, some of the warmer options on this list make more sense to me as they might be easier sells to the family. So when you see me talk about the “family aspects” this is what I am referring to.
Free Agent Suitors
Among the teams to have been rumored to have interest in Philip are the Buccaneers, Colts, Panthers, Raiders and Dolphins. There are others, but according to odds makers at Sportsline.com, these are the top five most likely landing spots for him. The betting odds-makers have the Buccaneers down as the odds-on favorites to sign Rivers at +150 as of Feb. 10th. The Colts are 2nd at +200. Then the Panthers (+500), Raiders (+700) and Dolphins (+900). All of these teams have potential positives and negatives that each bring.
For this article, we will visit briefly four of these five possibilities, but then I want to focus in on the Colts as a potential spot. There are a lot of reasons why I simply don’t see this connection and reunion between Rivers and Frank Reich (former Chargers Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach) happening in Indianapolis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This options seems to make the most sense to me. Philip just recently purchased a home in Florida last month and sold his home in Southern California. Remember the family aspects I spoke of. This obviously could be (most likely was) due to the enormous amount of money they will save in income taxes due to the tax laws in Florida, but it still speaks volumes to the amount of leverage that the Buccaneers could have in trying to lure Philip to sign with them. They also currently have a quarterback that is struggling, at best, in Jameis Winston. Winston has certainly had shining moments as a quarterback and is not totally inept at the game of football. However, he does have 88 interceptions over his 5-year career, 30 in 2019 alone, and was briefly benched in 2018 in favor of career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. That doesn’t exactly scream success and winning. However, Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians has had Winston’s back since joining the team. Even to the extent of letting Ryan Fitzpatrick leave to their cross-state rivals, the Miami Dolphins, before the 2019 season. Will Arians continue to backup his guy with a proven leader like Philip Rivers available and ready to play? Also, Rivers wants to win a title. Does he have that opportunity in Tampa?
Many Panthers fans are ready to see the new Carolina Panthers roll out in 2020. It has already begun with the firing of Ron Rivera after nine years as the Head Coach. His tenure in Carolina also happens to coincide with the 9-year career for the Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton. There has been no real confidence expressed by the Panthers to this point to suggest that Cam will definitely be the man under center to start the 2020 season. Even if we consider the idea that the Panthers may move on from Cam, should we even entertain the idea that they may sign another vet that is even longer in the tooth? They have undrafted Free Agent Kyle Allen that started his starting quarterback career with four straight wins. That’s easy to forget since he ended the season being benched in favor of rookie 3rd round pick Will Grier who had completely uninspiring stats in his two starts. As a side note, Charlotte, NC, is an extremely short flight from Decatur, Alabama where Philip and Tiffany’s families reside.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders have had more than their fair share of quarterback struggles with Derek Carr. However, most of these struggles tend to lean more toward being able to win games (much like Rivers himself of late). Although we forget easily about the seven 4th quarter comebacks in 2016. His individual stat line has not been completely horrible. He does struggle to find the open man at the right times and tends to make boneheaded decisions. But he has started all but two games over his six-year career and has averaged over 3,900 passing yards per season after his Rookie season. His 143-62 Touchdown to Interception Ratio ranks 8th all time, and 7th among active quarterbacks. Therefore, It’s not a given that the Raiders are in that big of a desperation mode for a new quarterback at this time.
The Dolphins are another team that could take advantage of the hometown appeal for Rivers now that his family of eleven (11!) are residing in Florida. However, outside of the geographical reasoning, I see little appeal for Rivers to think he could win a ring in Miami and I see little reasoning why the Dolphins would stop paying their current stop gap quarterback to starting paying more for a little better stop gap quarterback. There are some good young players on the Dolphins roster now. This talent includes Josh Rosen who is currently waiting on the bench behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for another shot at a starting job.
Other Factors to Consider
I will get to my thoughts on the possibilities of the Colts signing Rivers in a moment. But first, I want to consider some things that I am sure may be running through your head. First off, many may use the large amount of Cap space available for the Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Colts at this point in the offseason. So I’ll address that now.
There are currently only six teams that could not afford to restructure contracts or cut players to make room for a veteran contract like the one Rivers will require. These teams are the Bears, Saints, Falcons, Jaguars, Steelers, and Vikings. None of the teams are being considered either and for good reasons. In other words, over 80% of the league could afford a two-year contract for Rivers if they wanted him so we can throw the cap talk out. Especially if you consider all the young talent that is currently in the league that will be requiring new contracts soon and the talented potential quarterbacks about to be drafted that will be playing on very small rookie contracts (in comparison to River’s veteran contract).
That is the other thing that I’d like to address: the incoming Rookie Quarterback class. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, and Jake Fromm are all potentially likely to be NFL starters in the very near future in the NFL. All of the teams listed so far above currently have quarterbacks that would be viable enough to roll with for the next season or two while any of these draft picks get their feet wet on the bench or even start out of the gate. After all, Philip Rivers’ stats and abilities slipped drastically in the 2019 season. Many could argue that he has lost much of his talent. He is still gutsy, smart, and experienced beyond most NFL Quarterbacks, but that will only give your team so much when it comes to winning games. And before you revert to the “Peyton Manning” argument, let me remind you that the Broncos were once a really good team that just needed that one piece. Rivers is no Manning. He isn’t that piece. Plus, the Broncos have struggled to get back to being a viable team since Manning retired. Some say that his contract kept them from retaining some key players back then that could be making a difference for them now. None of the teams listed above are that good or that close to contending. Any combination of a rookie quarterback with Winston, Newton, Allen, or Grier, Carr, Fitzpatrick or Rosen, could be just as effective at game managing a team to a mediocre finish, just like Rivers has over much of his career, and especially last season. The other thing they all have in common is that they will do it for cheaper.
Many of the things that I have listed above are exactly the reasons why I am against Philip Rivers going to the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, there are rumors from the Colts organization. Sure, Melvin Gordon recently said in an interview with CBS the he feels Rivers will go to the Colts. But he also admitted that it’s just a feeling and he has no inside source on that. He is basing his feeling solely off of the relationship that Rivers has with Franck Reich and Colts current Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni who previously was a Chargers assistant for five years. We have seen reunions and connections like this in the past in the NFL…when it makes sense. But to base most your opinion on this kind of relationship being what your team needs to win more games, seems a little off kilter to me for someone like Colts GM Chris Ballard.
Ballard has a track record of drafting, retaining, and promoting players from within. He is never a big splash sort of guy when it comes to free agency. Granted, the Free Agent pool for quarterbacks has never seen the potential that it could see this season, but neither has the incoming rookie class of quarterbacks in quite some time. Ballard did draft Patrick Mahomes when he already had Alex Smith (pre gruesome injury) and opted to stay the course rather than spending money on big free agents. That seemed to work out for them. There are too many young quarterbacks to be drafted this season. Jacobi Brissett is every bit as effective a game manager as Rivers is at this stage in his career, and he will cost less money. Even though it may only be a few million, there are a lot of young and talented rookie contracts that will need to be extended very soon. I feel strongly that Chris Ballard (who has the final say… not Reich or Sirianni) will use business sense to make his decision and not bench or cut Jacobi to bring in Rivers. Especially after two seasons of hearing Frank Reich talk so highly about Brissett and the reasons why they wanted to give him his last contract extension to begin with.
Quite frankly, I don’t know where Philip Rivers will end up. It is possible that I am wrong and he will sign with the Colts because you simply never know in the NFL. A team that isn’t even on our radar at this time (like the Patriots, Broncos, or Titans) could come in and shock us all by signing him. But one thing is for certain: this off-season will be filled with excitement at every position from every team. There are big names and no names that will surprise us all.
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