Monday marks the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The team announced it has mutually parted ways with starting quarterback Philip Rivers, who spent his first 16 NFL seasons with the franchise. Rivers was originally drafted by the New York Giants in 2004, but he was traded to the Chargers on draft day in a deal that sent Eli Manning to Big Blue.
So, what does Rivers' departure mean for the Chargers, and other free agents such as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady? Here's a quick overview.
1. Rivers enters loaded free agent class
The amount of quality quarterbacks who could hit free agency in March is quite impressive. The class was headlined by Brady, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater, and now Rivers must be thrown into that mix. Teams in need of a QB upgrade could have several enticing options once the free agent market opens.
Rivers isn't an elite player, but he's been among the most consistent quarterbacks for over a decade. He's thrown for at least 4,000 yards in six consecutive seasons, and he tallied 28 or more touchdown passes in five of those campaigns. Durability might actually be Rivers' best talent. He hasn't missed a game in 14 years, and he's battled his share of injuries and suspect offensive line play. You know he's going to be out there every Sunday.
Rivers has not proven to be a strong playoff performer, and Chargers fans have seen too many late-game interceptions from him. Still, he would a better option at quarterback for a lot of teams.
2. There's officially an opening for Brady in Los Angeles
The Chargers need a new quarterback, and they now must decide to sign a veteran in free agency or use the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to find their franchise QB.
Late last week, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported an update on the Chargers' quarterback dilemma:
—What will the Los Angeles Chargers do at quarterback? All signs from league sources indicate the team will draft a signal-caller—either Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa—in the first round, but within the last three days there have been a number of unsolicited calls and texts about a trade for Cam Newton.
This makes sense.
The Chargers need a quarterback, but they also need to sell tickets. Bringing in a household name and marketable option is business savvy and football smart if Newton is healthy. The most likely move is still to draft the next franchise quarterback at No. 6 overall, but there's enough buzz surrounding a Newton trade to mention it here.
There are some aspects of the Chargers offense that could appeal to Brady. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are two talented wide receivers. Hunter Henry is a solid tight end when healthy. Los Angeles' offensive line also is pretty good. We also should mention the Chargers are moving into their brand new stadium in L.A. next season, and signing Brady would likely drive ticket sales and fan interest in the team.
The Patriots are a better situation for Brady in 2020 -- New England is more likely than Los Angeles to compete for an AFC title with Brady next season -- but the Chargers aren't a bad option, either.
3. Hunter Henry impact
It'll be interesting to see how the Rivers development impacts Henry's future in Los Angeles.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport offered this take Monday:
With the #Chargers announcing they won’t be franchise tagging QB Philip Rivers, this opens the door to Los Angeles potentially franchising Hunter Henry, allowing them to hang on to one of their top targets.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 10, 2020
It's no secret the Patriots need to upgrade at tight end. New England never adequately replaced the retired Rob Gronkowski, and as a result, the offensive production at tight end was lacking throughout 2019. Henry would be among the best free agent tight ends available if he hit the market.
Henry missed the entire 2018 season because of a knee injury. He returned in 2019 and tallied 55 receptions for 652 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games.