For the first time in his NFL career, Philip Rivers is set to join a team other than the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers announced Monday that Rivers will enter free agency after 16 memorable seasons with the franchise.
Here are five potential landing spots for the veteran quarterback:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A pairing with Bruce Arians was rumored long before Los Angeles announced Rivers’ entrance into the free-agent pool. The 38-year-old recently moved his family to Florida and appears likely to prioritize being close to home as his career winds down.
Rivers’ fit with Arians is an obvious one. The Buccaneers are set to target a quarterback in 2020 after Jameis Winston’s inconsistencies reached new heights last season. Tampa Bay fields a solid, ascendant roster, so its head coach could believe the team is a veteran signal-caller away from truly competing in the NFC South.
Rivers ranked third league-wide with 20 interceptions in 2019, but he’s cerebral and aggressive enough to fit Arians’ scheme. And the team’s top receivers – Chris Godwin and Mike Evans – are reminiscent of Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, the Chargers’ lengthy wideouts from 2008-2011.
Arians resurrected Carson Palmer’s career with the Arizona Cardinals and could look to do the same with Rivers. It’s a match made in heaven, one in which both parties can ride into the sunset together.
If Rivers is looking to compete for a Lombardi Trophy, then Indianapolis is an ideal landing spot.
It felt like the Chargers could never consistently protect their quarterback during his 16-year tenure, but the Colts wouldn’t have that problem. Led by Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, Indy’s offensive line would give the eight-time Pro Bowler more time in the pocket than he’s ever experienced.
The former fourth overall pick also has some key connections to the Colts’ staff. A few of the most productive years of his career came when Frank Reich was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, and Nick Sirianni, Reich’s current offensive coordinator, was Rivers’ quarterbacks coach from 2015-16.
Rivers isn’t Andrew Luck, but he certainly represents a significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Despite finishing third in the AFC South a season ago, Indianapolis is set to compete, and it may not have the opportunity to draft a quarterback early in April’s draft.
The Titans are fresh off a trip to the AFC Championship Game and Tennesse is geographically close to Rivers’ new home, so don’t rush to rule out this pairing.
Ryan Tannehill is scheduled to hit free agency alongside Rivers. Following last season’s resurgence, he may command a lucrative contract from a contender and price himself out of Tennessee. If the Titans are unable to re-sign Tannehill, Rivers is the perfect fallback option. The veteran doesn’t have to lead Arthur Smith’s offense and could likely limit his mistakes as a result. The unit already features strong blockers and star running back Derrick Henry – if retained – as potential supporting cast members.
Tennessee isn’t usually considered an ideal destination for prized free agents, but the Titans’ recent playoff run could change things. A roster featuring a handful of young receivers and tight ends is also a strong selling point.
With the draft’s top passing prospects potentially out of reach at No. 7, new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule appears destined to field a “bridge” quarterback in his first season at the helm. Rhule recently backed Cam Newton despite the former MVP’s foot injury, but there’s no telling what the final decision will be.
Newton is the superior player when healthy, but will he ever return to form? Swapping the two would allow Rhule to open his NFL tenure with an experienced signal-caller until a younger option is ready. Rivers, though older than Newton, is the safer option; he hasn’t missed a start in 15 years. Newton is also entering the final year of his contract.
The Panthers would mark a homecoming of sorts for Rivers, who was a star at North Carolina State before entering the NFL. Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore aren’t bad bargaining chips either.
Jacksonville is an outside-the-box destination for Rivers, as a few dominoes would have to fall correctly for the two sides to reach an agreement.
Nick Foles is the first piece of that puzzle. The former Super Bowl MVP signed a lucrative contract with the Jaguars last year, but his first season in Jacksonville was marred by injuries and poor play. Entering a make-or-break campaign, head coach Doug Marrone and general manager David Caldwell could view the potential free-agent quarterback carousel as an opportunity to upgrade at the game’s most important position.
In this scenario, the Jaguars trade Foles in a salary dump (perhaps to the Colts) and Rivers gets to stay close to his family in Florida. He profiles as a strong fit in new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s scheme, so Jacksonville is a possibility worth monitoring.