What does Philip Rivers' departure mean for Chargers, Tom Brady?

What does Philip Rivers' departure mean for Chargers, Tom Brady?

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. 

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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:

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.

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Gary Tanguay: I was wrong to doubt Bill Belichick

Gary Tanguay: I was wrong to doubt Bill Belichick

I should have known.

I should have known that Bill Belichick would address the senseless murder of George Floyd with his team.

Belichick had remained silent on the matter when other notable coaches and owners like Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, and Wyc Grousbeck had spoken out publicly. The Patriots had released a statement, but we heard not a word from the Hoodie. His players were another story.

Mike Giardi of NFL Network reported that the coach held an extensive session with his team regarding the matter. Patriot captain Matthew Slater told Phil Perry on The Next Pats Podcast that his coach, “has a healthy understanding of the situation and the times we’re living in. I think he’s done of good job of trying to listen, trying to learn from his players and try to navigate this as best he can.”

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Of course. Shame on me for doubting him.

Belichick is a "my way or the highway” kind of guy. We know that. However, he has consistently changed “his way” during his coaching tenure.

Known as a defensive-minded coach, he took the reins off of Tom Brady to 2007 as his one-time game manager threw 50 touchdowns that year.

This no-nonsense coach brought in one-time problem players like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss and made them into extremely productive Patriots.

A military-minded fellow has had no problem with a player’s facial hair, hair length, or how they dress.

His training camps have become more about field trips to the movies than two-days as he adapts to the ways of managing a player’s health in today’s NFL.

As my friend and colleague Steve DeOssie has told me thousands of times, “Bill, does business as business is done.” There is not a better example of this than the coach’s virtual session with his team. He tossed football aside and was there for his players.

How could Belichick look Slater or the McCourty twins in the eye and not address this situation?

How could he pass Andre Tippett in the hallway in Foxboro and remain silent? He shouldn’t, he couldn’t, and he didn’t.

Belichick knows his players need him right now and did the right thing and spoke up. He just didn’t need to tell us about it, which is OK with me.

Next Pats Podcast: Matthew Slater reflects on social unrest within U.S. and NFL

Next Pats Podcast: Matthew Slater reflects on social unrest within U.S. and NFL

As much as we'd love to talk football, it has taken a back seat to the conversations that need to be had about George Floyd's murder and the racial injustices that remain prevalent in the United States.

The "Black Lives Matter" movement has spread across the country with protests advocating for justice and racial equality. It has impacted the world of sports, with countless athletes using their platforms to let their voices be heard. NFL players even sent a strong message to the league with a video stating what they wanted to hear it say regarding the oppression of African Americans.

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On a brand new episode of the Next Pats Podcast, New England Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater joined Phil Perry to discuss the state of the nation.

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Slater covered a variety of important topics in the episode. But one that particularly stood out was his explanation of how if the country operated like an NFL locker room, it would be a more inclusive place.

"It is a very unique place. A locker room setting -- you know, if our country operated and moved like a locker room, man it would be a beautiful thing," Slater said. "I'm not saying it's perfect, I'm not saying we've got it all figured out, but what a unique space where people from all different walks of life, different belief systems and things of that nature to work toward a common goal.

"And there's automatic respect that comes with the fact that you have a jersey and a helmet, and you're one of us. So I'm appreciative of that and I think now is a time for us to maybe forge those bonds even deeper. Guys that maybe hear personal stories and maybe experience this from their teammates have a different appreciation for why that guy is the way he is, why he does the things that he does. And I think ultimately that's going to lead to deeper and more fruitful relationships."

If anyone knows what a healthy, inclusive locker room environment looks like, it's Slater. The 34-year-old has been a captain for the Patriots for nearly a decade and has been an admirable leader throughout his stellar NFL career.

Slater also discussed how head coach Bill Belichick has been involved in the team's discussions about recent events, his experiences living as a black man in America, and much more.

Check out more of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: