After 16 seasons with the Chargers, Rivers is looking for a new team
Philip Rivers' career with the Los Angeles Chargers has finally come to an end. On Monday, the franchise and quarterback released a joint statement saying that they had mutually agreed to part ways, ending their partnership after 16 seasons and 235 consecutive starts.
The question now becomes where Rivers will play next season. Although the signal-caller will turn 39 at the end of next season, quarterbacks are playing well into their 40s like never before with fellow free agents Tom Brady and Drew Brees continuing to set records.
Los Angeles is understandably ready to turn the page and potentially find its new franchise quarterback in the upcoming draft, where it owns the sixth overall pick. But Rivers will still be a starting-caliber quarterback for some team. He's the only quarterback to throw for at least 4,200 yards in each of the last seven seasons and still registered a 66.0 percent completion rate and posted 7.8 yards per attempt last season, both at or above his career averages.
So which teams would be a good fit for Rivers, who is still searching for a way to get to the Super Bowl? Here's a quick look ahead of the start of NFL free agency on March 18.
The entire league was shocked by Andrew Luck's early retirement last season, and the good news is that the Colts did get better results than expected from Jacoby Brissett. The problem is that he still wasn't good enough to prove he can be a long-term starter.
Among 32 qualified quarterbacks last season, Brissett's 60.9 percent completion rate ranked 26th, and his 6.6 yards per attempt ranked 28th. He did have the seventh-lowest interception rate (1.3 percent) but that was also an indication of him being too conservative when he did look downfield.
Rivers would have quite the talented group to work with in Indianapolis, as Zach Pascal emerged as a legitimate weapon alongside T.Y. Hilton. Last year's second-round pick, Parris Campbell, still has potential and the Colts have the second-most cap space in the league, according to OverTheCap, which should allow them to bring in a star or two in addition to Rivers. This may be his best shot to make the playoffs.
Signing with the Panthers would be a homecoming of sorts for Rivers, who played college football two and a half hours away from Charlotte at NC State. However, he would likely only come if it meant new head coach Matt Rhule and the front office decided Cam Newton's time with the Panthers was up.
Kyle Allen proved that he is not ready to be a starting quarterback last season, so the Panthers will likely opt to use a stopgap veteran if they move on from their former MVP. Rivers could be a good mentor to Will Grier or another young quarterback if the Panthers find another they like in the draft.
The reason this move wouldn't make a lot of sense for the Panthers is that Rivers likely won't save them any money. Trading Newton wold only trim $19.1 million off their cap, and Rivers has made more than $20 million each of the last two years. Rivers isn't a long-term solution either, so Carolina is probably better off banking on a bounceback for their still-30-year-old signal-caller.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This one seems like the most realistic option. Head coach Bruce Arians loves to air it out, and he's plainly tired of Jameis Winston. Enter Rivers, who could really take advantage of a receiving corps that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard.
Of course, Winston became a problem because he couldn't stop turning the ball over. He's the only quarterback to ever throw 30 picks and 30 touchdowns in the same season. Rivers also has had an interception problem at times; he threw 20 last season and led the league in 2014 and '16. But he's by far the best realistic option on the market for the Bucs if they want to win the NFC South next year.
In many ways, this move feels destined to happen. It's worth noting that Rivers recently moved his family from San Diego to a vacation home in the Florida Panhandle that he purchased five years ago. He's used to commuting from LA to San Diego, and it would only be a few more hours from the Panama City area to Tampa.
This is by far the longest shot of this group, but Rivers would have a good shot at the playoffs if he went to Chicago. He might also be the best Bears quarterback in a generation.
Incumbent starter Mitchell Trubisky has been a massive disappointment since going second overall in the 2017 draft, and he's made it clear that he doesn't deserve a $20-plus million extension to stick around. That may be a hard pill to swallow for general manager Ryan Pace, but the team needs to capitalize on their window of opportunity now while Khalil Mack and the rest of the defense is in its prime.
Rivers would have a solid group to work with, including a versatile backfield of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. He also may be able to finally unlock the immense potential of wideout Allen Robinson. He's found success in college and the NFL despite playing with ho-hum passers Christian Hackenberg, Blake Bortles, and Trubisky, so it's easy to imagine him improving on his 1,147 receiving yards last year with Rivers at the helm.