The Los Angeles Chargers amicably let Philip Rivers leave in free agency, but they are a legit sleeper for next season (and beyond) if they can find the right quarterback.
For the first time since Drew Brees’ final game with the franchise in 2005, the Los Angeles Chargers will have someone other than Philip Rivers start for them come Week 1 of the 2020 season. Rivers left for the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, and the Chargers are entering a new era.
The Chargers went 5-11 last season, which earned them the sixth overall pick in April’s draft. They could use that pick on a quarterback, with Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love possibly on the radar, and overall it would be surprising if they didn’t come out of the draft with a quarterback.
After pursuing Tom Brady right to the end, the Chargers bowed out of the veteran quarterback market and professed a commitment to Tyrod Taylor as their starter. Jameis Winston still lingers available as a free agent, while Andy Dalton has been available on the trade market.
As the Carolina Panthers inevitably seemed set to move on from Cam Newton, he has been seen as a great fit for the Chargers both on and off the field. As a trade became unlikely, with the coronavirus ordeal making it so team doctors can’t put anyone through a physical easily, the Panthers finally cut Newton this week. For the Chargers, or any other team, bringing Newton is now a no-risk move.
Taylor is a better quarterback than most people want to believe, and he fits the mobility template Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn wants to move toward now. Newton also fits that template, to a level that’s hard to match if he’s healthy after two shoulder surgeries and a foot injury in recent years.
Outside of Rivers, the key pieces of a 12-4 team in 2018 are still around. The offseason has brought reinforcements on the offensive line (Bryan Bulaga, Trai Turner), and to an already strong secondary (Chris Harris).
The Chargers can sign Newton with an eye on winning a lot of games this year, and still take whoever they deem worthy in the draft as the quarterback of the future. Taylor has started a playoff game in his career, and he’s above .500 in his career as a starter.
The Chargers can still go multiple directions at quarterback this offseason, and a dual plan to win in 2020 and find their guy for beyond that remains palatable. If they find the right quarterback they are a major sleeper team, and the rest of the AFC will quickly be on notice.