While Philip Rivers switching teams late in his career wouldn’t be as jarring as Tom Brady wearing a new uniform, it’s still going to be an adjustment.
Rivers didn’t explicitly say he wants to keep playing in Monday’s announcement through the Los Angeles Chargers that he’ll hit free agency, but we can assume he’ll be someone’s starter in 2020.
But which team will land Rivers? Not many teams are an obvious fit, though we haven’t seen how other quarterback dominoes will fall this offseason. Here are five teams that we should at least keep an eye on when Rivers becomes a free agent:
Panthers? Philip Rivers has a connection to North Carolina
A long, long time ago, Rivers was a legend at North Carolina State. That alone will lead to connecting some dots.
Of course, the Panthers have a quarterback. Cam Newton will be 31 years old next season and is a former MVP. Moving on from him, especially for a quarterback who will be 39 in December, would be bold and something they could regret. But there has been enough speculation about Newton’s future since he suffered a season-ending injury last year that it has to be a consideration. And if the Panthers move on from Newton, Rivers will have to be a consideration.
Colts could see Rivers as an upgrade
The Colts are in an interesting spot at quarterback. It’s hard to find anyone who still believes in Jacoby Brissett. This is a Colts team that looked promising before Andrew Luck retired. Perhaps they will see Rivers as a short-term upgrade and try to get back on a contender’s track after a disappointing 2019.
That wouldn’t solve the Colts’ future at the position, but they could work on it with an eight-time Pro Bowler at quarterback.
Rivers moved to Florida, maybe Buccaneers fit?
We still don’t know what the Buccaneers will do with Jameis Winston. But if they decide Winston isn’t worth the money after a 30-interception season, they’re going to need a new quarterback.
Back in mid-January, Rivers moved his family to Florida. He seemed to know then that he wouldn’t be back with the Chargers, although that wasn’t announced until Monday. Maybe Rivers knew his next move, too. Let’s not act like there aren’t plenty of nod-and-wink deals done well before free agency starts. And while there have been endless jokes about Rivers and his nine children, one has to assume that there are many family considerations involved with Rivers’ destination.
If Raiders want to make a splash, Rivers could be an option
It seems like every quarterback who isn’t nailed down will be linked to the Raiders, until they finally find a permanent answer. Derek Carr isn’t bad, but he’s not too inspiring either.
If the Raiders want to have a headliner at quarterback heading into their first Las Vegas season, their options will be limited. If a quarterback is available, there’s a good reason. Rivers is nearing the end of his career and showed signs of slipping last season — he had one of his worst games against the Raiders, which seems relevant — but at least the longtime Charger is a big name. It would be bizarre to see Rivers in a Raiders uniform after more than a decade of AFC West battles against them, but you’ll hear plenty of speculation about it.
Rivers replacing Tom Brady with Patriots?
A Tom Brady-Rivers swap would be fascinating, wouldn’t it?
If Brady does hit the open market, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft indicated he would, the Chargers seem to be everyone’s favorite to make a run at him. That makes sense, assuming the Chargers want to make a big splash moving into a new Los Angeles stadium.
If Brady leaves, the Patriots would need a quarterback. It’s hard to imagine they’d want to just plug in Jarrett Stidham. They won’t have enough draft capital to trade up and draft a prospect who could start right away. The Patriots presumably still feel they can be a Super Bowl contender, so a veteran makes sense. There might not be a better veteran option than Rivers.
Last year Patriots coach Belichick said Rivers is “really good at everything.”
"I have a ton of respect for Phil,” Belichick said last January. “We've had an opportunity to spend a little time together. I think he's a very, very smart person that understands football. Very inquisitive. Knows a lot of what's going on, not just on his team, but studies other offenses, other teams around the league and defenses. Can put it all together. Understands how to attack and how teams try to defend in this league. I've had some great conversations with him, really enjoyed my time with him at the Pro Bowl and was very impressed by his knowledge of the game. … He was a joy to be around and to coach and to have the opportunity to interact with."
It would be wild if Brady replaced Rivers and Rivers replaced Brady. Given how crazy this offseason could get, it would fit right in.
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