I think, watching Philip Rivers get all emotional after the 11th loss of a lost Chargers’ season, with so much riding on 2020 for the franchise, there are lots of questions. For the first time, he spoke openly about the chance that he might be a goner with the Chargers. But he also said he definitely wanted to play somewhere in 2020. The possibilities as I see them:
• Rivers returns for his 17th season with the franchise, maybe on a two-year deal while the Chargers figure out their long-term future at the position. He is an unrestricted free agent in March if not signed by the Chargers before then, so a new contract would have to be negotiated, and coming off this season, and four straight seasons with a low cap number, that might be a problem.
• The Chargers could draft a successor in April and re-sign Rivers for one year as a bridge to 2021.
• The Chargers, who need a billboard player as they move into a new stadium with major fiscal challenges (in tickets sales and suite sales and sponsorships), could pursue a jolt of quarterback adrenalin: Cam Newton in trade with Carolina, or perhaps Teddy Bridgewater in free agency—though Bridgewater is likely not going to move the needle as much as bringing back Rivers.
• The Chargers could try to talk Drew Brees, who is scheduled to be a free agent in March, into a second act with the franchise. The record-setter was a Charger draft choice in 2001 and preceded Rivers as the starter before going to New Orleans as a free agent in 2006. I’m skeptical of that. I think he’ll re-sign with New Orleans. But never say never. Brees has a home in San Diego and loves it there, and could do the commuting thing that Rivers did to get to practice in Orange County.
• The Chargers could try to talk Tom Brady, also scheduled to be free in March, into coming west. I’m skeptical of this too, but this will be the first time Brady’s ever been unsigned and ineligible to be franchised entering an offseason, and he might want to see what life is like outside Belichickland.
As for Rivers: He is from northern Alabama and went to college at North Carolina State, starting for four seasons. What if the Panthers had their doubts about the oft-injured Cam Newton and aggressively pursued Rivers to play out his last two or three seasons in Charlotte? They could do this with the understanding that the franchise would have to prepare for the future and draft a young passer, or prepare Will Grier as a possible starter.
Rivers is such a gamer, and such a great locker-room presence, so beloved by his teammates. That could transfer to another place, surely. It was tough to see him emotional after the last game of the Chargers’ awful 5-11 season Sunday, as Rivers acknowledged for the first time that this could be it for him in southern California. “If it’s the last time [as a Charger] . . . I can say I gave it everything I had, every week,” he said, almost breaking down near the end of a longer-than-usual post-game presser. “Maybe it means an interception when it’s fourth-and-18, and you’re down 10. Cuz I don’t care if it’s gonna say ‘two interceptions’ [on the stat sheet]. I ain’t quittin’. I think that, doing it with so many guys, over 14 years, and going to the locker room, and saying, dadgum it, we fell short, or we won, but shoot, I couldn’t have tried any harder.”