Philip Rivers free agent recap: Colts finalize contract, what's next, scouting report, how he fits, and more

The free agent quarterback market was littered with accomplished veteran passers for the first time in quite some time, and although Tom Brady stole most of the headlines, Philip Rivers' free agency might end being the most impactful in the short term when we look back at the 2020 season. As reported by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts were in the process of finalizing a contract on Tuesday and that deal has since been agreed upon in principle -- of course, no deal can become official during the legal tampering period. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Rivers will sign a one-year deal worth roughly $25 million with the Colts upon the start of the new league year on Wednesday.

Throughout his career, Rivers has won 123 games as a starting quarterback in the NFL (123-101 record) -- the most wins in NFL history by a quarterback who hasn't appeared in a Super Bowl. Over the last six seasons, the Chargers have made the postseason just once with Rivers at the helm. Although the Chargers' franchise stalwart's best days are likely behind him, Rivers still has a lot left to offer. Whoever ends up signing Rivers will be getting one of the NFL's most dependable and available quarterbacks. Rivers hasn't missed a start since Week 1 of the 2006 season -- his 224 consecutive games started is the longest active streak and second-longest in NFL history (Brett Favre made 297 consecutive starts). Rivers is also sixth all time in career completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. 

In 2019, Rivers threw for the fourth-most single-season passing yards of his career and completed 66% of his pass attempts with more touchdowns than interceptions. Rivers is now 38 years old, but he was a Pro Bowl quarterback as recently as the 2018 NFL season, the last of a three-year stretch of consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.

Why the Colts-Rivers union makes sense

Earlier this offseason, Cody Benjamin broke down the five best landing spots for Rivers, and although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the most heavily-linked to Rivers, Benjamin had the Colts as the No. 1 landing spot. Follow the link above to find out exactly why Rivers to the Colts is an excellent fit for both sides.

Jeff Kerr added insight as to why the fit makes so much sense from a systematic standpoint. Rivers will immediately have familiarity with the offensive system the Colts plan to run in 2020. More from Kerr below:

"Rivers would be reunited with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who spent five seasons as an offensive assistant with the Los Angeles Chargers, who Rivers played for from 2004 to 2019. Colts coach Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Chargers, spending three total years with Rivers in San Diego. 

"Reich was the Chargers' quarterbacks coach in 2013, when Rivers led the NFL by completing 69.5% of his passes, the highest completion percentage of his career. Along with throwing for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns that season, Rivers also took care of the football, throwing just 11 interceptions while earning Pro Bowl honors."

Projected market value for Rivers

Although the contract details on Rivers' impending deal with the Colts have not yet been finalized or revealed to the public, we have a pretty good idea of what the contract might look like based on market projections. Over at Spotrac, one of the leading providers of NFL contract and salary cap information, they have projected Rivers' estimated free-agent market value. Based on several factors including Rivers' age and the market at the quarterback position, Spotrac projects Rivers to have a current calculated market value (and this could change if, say, Dak Prescott signs a long-term extension) of $24,337,191 annually. They project Rivers to receive a two-year, $48,674,382 contract in free agency. You can find the full details for Rivers' market value projection at Spotrac.

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Philip Rivers IND • QB •
CMP%66.0
YDs4615
TD23
INT20
YD/Att7.81




Scouting report on Rivers (pros and cons):

Pros:

  • Short and intermediate accuracy
  • Rivers throws a "runner's ball" -- more simplified: the placement of his throws allows his receiving options the most room to operate after the catch
  • Rivers throws with excellent anticipation -- specifically to running backs (might still be NFL's best in this regard) and tight ends
  • Rivers is still willing and unafraid to push the ball downfield (7.81 yards per attempt during a down 2019 season) -- even with diminishing arm talent, Rivers wins downfield by anticipating where the defenders won't be

Cons:

  • Turnover rate spiked in 2019; specifically in late-game situations
  • Touchdown rate plummeted in 2019; Rivers' 23 touchdowns were his lowest total since 2007 season
  • Overall efficiency dropped; Rivers' 88.5 quarterback rating was his lowest since 2007 season
  • Diminishing arm talent; Rivers can still make all the throws, but his arm talent has taken a noticeable dip and he would be best-suited signing with a warm-weather team (or a team that plays home games in a dome) 

Free agent timeline (how we got here):

Rivers and Colts already in discussions

Monday, March 16: The free agency tampering period just got underway and there is reportedly already news on the Rivers free agent front. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Rivers is a "clear target" for the Colts and the two sides have engaged in early discussions. Bryan DeArdo has more on this developing story.

A surprise darkhorse could be in the mix for Rivers

Wednesday, Mar. 4: During an appearance on FS1's "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports' Peter Schrager mentioned a "crazy dark horse" team he is hearing is involved in potentially signing Rivers as a free agent. Considering how popular the Rivers-Colts connection is, we can rule out Indianapolis as any kind of "crazy" surprise.

Instead, a surprise team could include the Raiders, as they are likely looking to make a splash in their first season in Vegas and they have been lukewarm in their appraisal of current franchise quarterback Derek Carr. The Tennessee Titans could also be a surprise darkhorse candidate -- if they believe an upgrade at quarterback will take them from AFC Championship losers to Super Bowl winners in one offseason. Of course, that would assume they believe Rivers is an upgrade over Ryan Tannehill, or that signing him to his long-term asking price is unobtainable. How about the Carolina Panthers? They just traded for Rivers' former blindside pass protector (left tackle Russell Okung) and they haven't exactly guaranteed Cam Newton is in their future plans.

Multiple reports link Rivers to the Colts

Wednesday, Feb. 26: It's combine week and that means team execs and scouts have gathered in Indianapolis for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. As usual with a gathering of this size, rumors and buzz have circulated. Most notably, two reports surfaced on Wednesday suggesting the Colts have interest in signing Rivers in free agency. Cody Benajmin provided more on the latest between Rivers and Indianapolis.

Melvin Gordon predicts where Rivers will sign

Thursday, Feb. 13: Over the course of their five seasons playing together, Rivers and star running back Melvin Gordon have developed a strong rapport both on and off the field. As the speculation on where Rivers will sign in March during the NFL's 2020 free agency period continues to build, Gordon weighed in with his own prediction on where the former 2004 first-round draft pick will suit up for the 2020 season. Gordon made sure to clarify this was only his opinion, but his supporting logic is sound from an Xs and Os standpoint.

Chargers GM explains the decision

Tuesday, Feb. 11: "Once we saw the way this was heading, it was in the forefront of my mind," Telesco told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. "I mean, he's an icon for the organization and he's done so much here. I wanted to make sure everything was done as respectfully and classy as possible. This can be a very difficult business for all of us to be in—head coaches, GMs, players. That was the thought in my mind."

Bryan DeArdo has more on why Telesco and the Chargers' organization decided to move on from Rivers.

Rivers provides a timetable on how long he plans to play

Tuesday, Feb. 11: Rivers won't be playing in the NFL for forever, but as he explained to Sam Farmer of the LA Times, he still has some "emotional fire and passion" left. Whoever signs him this March will get that, and more. Tyler Sullivan provided more information on how long Rivers plan to play for and how he feels about the mutual decision to move on from the Chargers franchise.

#ThankYouPhilip becomes a Twitter trend

Monday, Feb. 10: Just minutes after Los Angeles announced their decision to mutually move on from Rivers this offseason, Chargers fans and players took to Twitter and social media to commemorate his time with the franchise. Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen has built a longstanding relationship and rapport with Rivers on and off the field and he was particularly saddened by the news. Within minutes, #ThankYouPhilip started trending. Shanna McCarriston has more on the reaction from fans and players on social media.

Chargers and Rivers agree to mutually part ways

Monday, Feb. 10: Although it's realistic to assume that a free-agent departure from a team where a player spent 16 seasons as the face of that franchise would come with baggage, both the Chargers and Rivers are claiming a mutual departure -- at least publicly. On Feb. 10, just eight days after the Super Bowl, both sides agreed to end the speculation about Los Angeles' tie to Rivers in the upcoming 2020 free agency with an official announcement that the veteran quarterback will move on from the franchise this March. Jordan Dajani has more on the announced mutual agreement.

Early buzz connects Rivers to Tampa Bay

Monday, Jan. 20: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to enter the 2020 offseason with current franchise quarterback Jameis Winston ready to hit unrestricted free agency. According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, who reported in November that Rivers and the Chargers would likely be parting ways, there's "a lot of buzz" about Tampa Bay as a potential landing spot for Rivers, which is intriguing for multiple reasons. 

La Canfora broke down how the quarterback market might shake out this offseason, what he's heard about Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians' interest in Rivers, and why the union between he and Rivers make so much sense. 

Rivers moves his family to Florida

Sunday, Jan. 19: Shortly after the conclusion of the 2019 regular season, Rivers and his family made the decision to move back closer to home -- from San Diego to Florida. 

"What this means football-wise is to be determined but it was time for us to move back closer to home," Rivers wrote during a recent text exchange with ESPN.

John Breech broke down why, based on what we do know about Rivers' family, his decision to move them to Florida could have a major impact on his upcoming free agency.

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