The times they are a-changin’ in the NFL, as the old guard at the quarterback position is slowly starting to leave the league. First up this offseason was the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, who announced his retirement from pro football last month. Next will be fellow 2004 first-round draft selection Philip Rivers, who will not return to the Los Angeles Chargers for a 17th season in 2020 as the team officially announced on Monday afternoon.
The early indication is that Rivers will continue to play football and try to find a new team in free agency, which means that his status also could have some impact on the New England Patriots and their veteran quarterback scheduled to enter the open market in mid-March: Tom Brady, who is four-and-a-half years Rivers’ senior, is only a month away from seeing his own contract expire and becoming a free agent for the first time in his career.
Essentially, there are two aspects of Brady’s free agency experience that could be tied to Rivers’ current situation and outlook:
The Chargers are now officially in the market for a quarterback
Numerous teams have been rumored to be interested in obtaining Brady’s services should he indeed hit free agency, with the Chargers among them. The team moving on from Rivers naturally adds further intrigue, but two main questions will need to be answered before L.A. and Brady joining forces can even be considered a realistic option:
- Do the Chargers really want to replace a 38-year-old quarterback with a soon-to-be 43-year-old who potentially will command more money?
- Does Brady actually view the team as a possible destination considering, among other aspects, its history of playoff failure with Rivers at quarterback and bad offensive line?
The second question cannot be answered at this point in time, but it appears the first can be to a certain degree: according to a report by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, all signs point towards L.A. preferring to draft a quarterback early this year and pair him with a veteran option. Cam Newton, a possible cap casualty under a new regime in Carolina, is mentioned as such while experienced Chargers backup Tyrod Taylor also comes to mind.
Los Angeles entering the market for a veteran quarterback to assist a rookie could have an impact on Brady and the Patriots, but Rivers himself could as well:
Rivers’ market will be closely watched by both Brady and the Patriots
Of the quarterbacks scheduled to hit free agency next month, two in particular will likely be kept a close eye on in New England: the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and now also Rivers. While Brees’ situation is the most similar to Brady’s given his age and contractual situation, the market for Rivers — a younger player with an impressive résumé in its own right even though it misses a Super Bowl — will also be closely studied by the Patriots and Brady’s camp.
If Rivers generates considerable buzz when agents and teams start talking at the NFL’s scouting combine and into the league’s so-called legal tampering period immediately preceding free agency, for example, Brady might be more willing to explore his own market outside of New England. This is all merely hypothetical at this point in time, of course, but another veteran passer hitting the market will still give him a clearer picture of how his value might be seen around the league.
Likewise, it will give the Patriots a clearer frame of reference when it comes to potential offers being extended to their future Hall of Fame quarterback (and by extension the rest of their free agency class as well). All in all, Rivers’ situation can therefore be seen as another — even if somewhat insignificant — piece of the puzzle that is the New England/Brady situation this offseason.