Now that NFL free agency is largely complete, it's time for the draft rumors to start. And one juicy one is San Diego potentially trading Philip Rivers to Tennessee for the No. 2 overall pick -- which could become Marcus Mariota. Let's examine the Chargers.
Chargers Should Look Similar in 2015
San Diego finished 9-7 last season for the second straight year but this time missed out on the playoffs by a game with 10-6 Baltimore claiming the AFC's final wild-card spot. If the Chargers had won at Kansas City in the season finale, they would have gotten in. However, the Chiefs won 19-7.
The Bolts were very up-and-down all year. After losing a one-point opener in Arizona they won five straight games, including a shocker over Seattle. San Diego looked like a Super Bowl contender. Then came three straight losses heading into a Week 10 bye, capped by an ugly embarrassment in Miami. The Chargers played well out of the bye with three straight wins, including what could have been a crucial 34-33 victory in Baltimore for a playoff tiebreaker. However, San Diego closed losing three of its final four games to finish third in the AFC West.
The team has been relatively quiet in free agency this offseason. Leading rusher Ryan Mathews was allowed to walk. While Mathews was good when healthy for the most part, he couldn't stay on the field. Receiver Eddie Royal signed with Chicago and cornerback Shareece Wright with San Francisco. but those aren't major losses. The Chargers added offensive tackle Orlando Franklin from Denver, receiver Stevie Johnson from San Francisco, receiver/return man Jacoby Jones from Baltimore and cornerback Patrick Robinson from New Orleans. The two biggest moves were re-signing cornerback Brandon Flowers and offensive tackle King Dunlap to big new extensions.
Rivers On Block?
Rivers' career has been rejuvenated under head coach Mike McCoy. Rivers was a turnover machine in the 2011-12 seasons but has raised his game to Pro Bowl levels the past two seasons. He completed a career-high 69.5 percent of his passes for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2013 for a rating of 105.5 and followed that by completing 66.5 percent for 4,286 yards and 31 touchdowns (but 18 interceptions) last year for a rating of 93.8. Rivers would start for a large majority of NFL teams, which can't be ignored while making your NFL Picks.
The rumors of a possible trade started a little over a week ago when Rivers said he wouldn't extend his contract and will play out the final year of his six-year, $91.8 million extension. Rivers will be 34 in December and is a very devoted family man (seven children). He also voiced some concerns that the Chargers might be moving to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and Rivers is tied into the San Diego community.
The Titans hold the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and they are coached by Ken Whisenhunt, who was Rivers' offensive coordinator in 2013. The Titans aren't thought likely to take Mariota there and claim they like young QB Zach Mettenberger as their starter, but Rivers obviously would be a huge upgrade. In addition, Nashville is only about 100 miles from Rivers' Alabama hometown. The Chargers are scheduling a private workout with Mariota, but he won't be there when they pick No. 17.
On Monday, Chargers GM Tom Telesco said the team won't be trading Rivers and that it wants him to retire as a Charger. But what if Rivers doesn't want that? Of course the Bolts could slap the franchise tag on him after this season if need be. His 2015 cap number is $17.416 million, and it would cost at least $20.9 million to keep Rivers with the team for 2016.
My argument for the trade is that San Diego would have its potential franchise quarterback for the next decade and that even with Rivers the team isn't going to beat out Denver in the AFC West as long as Peyton Manning is healthy. I'm also not sure Rivers is a Super Bowl QB. The argument against is that Mariota is a bit of a project who might not be NFL ready for a couple of seasons if he ever is. Rivers should be a Top-10 QB for the next three years or so if he's healthy.
San Diego is +5000 in the NFL Odds to win Super Bowl 50 at sportsbooks and it's not a Super Bowl team as currently constructed.