Indianapolis Colts: The case for and against signing Philip Rivers

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 29: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers ran off the field following the 31-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 29: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers ran off the field following the 31-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

With Philip Rivers parting ways with the Chargers, the Indianapolis Colts could be in the mix. There are pros and cons to signing him.

The 2019 season proved many things for the Indianapolis Colts, and one of them was the fact that Jacoby Brissett is not the long term answer at the quarterback position. General manager Chris Ballard and his staff will be busy scouting quarterbacks entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and it seems likely the Colts will select one in the first two rounds.

The Colts hold pick 13 in the first round, it’s unlikely at this point that they will be able to get one of the consensus top three quarterbacks without trading up, leaving an interesting situation.

Indianapolis is in a unique position to make a run this coming season and still be set for the future. That’s where Philip Rivers comes in. Rivers and the Chargers officially announced their split after 16 seasons on Monday, and it’s evident Rivers isn’t ready to hang it up.

Should the Colts make a run at Rivers in free agency? Let’s look at the cases for and against signing him.

The Case for Rivers

The first major points in the case for Rivers were already addressed a little bit up above. For one, we know that Jacoby Brissett is not the answer, and it’s likely we see Indianapolis pull the trigger on a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft. The issue is that the two quarterbacks they are linked to most, Utah State’s Jordan Love and Washington’s Jacob Eason, are great talents who probably would be best served sitting for a season. That puts adding a veteran on the table, and Rivers can be that veteran.

Another point for the addition of Rivers is cap space. Ballard was very frugal during free agency last March, and he has $90 million in cap space to work with as far as adding free agents. Signing Rivers might be a significant hit against the cap, but it would be worth it. They can add him and a couple other free agents while bolstering their roster in the draft on top of that.

Many Colts fans and analysts are concerned with this because of the decline of Rivers in 2019, a season in which he threw 20 interceptions, his highest total since 2016. Rivers has always been a bit of a gambler at the quarterback position, and there’s no doubt that’s something that can’t happen should he end up with the Colts. However, there wasn’t a significant drop off in completion percentage, yards per attempt, or yards per completion. The offense didn’t change too much from 2018 to 2019, featuring pass catching running backs a strong tight end. Plus, the offensive line was shoddy at best all season, with their bookends giving up 88 total pressures on the season, second most in the NFL according to PFF. It’s plausible to see a rebound for Rivers in 2020.

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Let’s also not forget about his outstanding 2018 season where he led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth. Rivers made great plays throughout the season, and led a game winning drive to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead.

Something else to consider is this. Cam Newton and Dak Prescott could both potentially be available this off-season, but both would require a trade. Getting rid of premium assets instead of signing a free agent isn’t the move.

Lastly, Rivers to Indianapolis means he can reunite with Frank Reich, who spent three seasons with the Chargers. Reich’s offense will put Rivers into a position to succeed, with a strong running game, a great offensive line, a solid tight end in Jack Doyle, and the draft capital and cap space to add more weapons in the passing game.

The Case against Rivers

There are definitely risks for this Indianapolis Colts team when it comes to signing Rivers, and we will look at the case against signing him here.

For one, we know that the Colts have the cap room to make a move like this, but we also know that Ballard rarely spends top dollar for free agents. It’s reasonable to expect Rivers to want a multi-year deal from a team in free agency, and that contract could be in the neighborhood of 2-3 years worth about $80-90 million. Is that really worth it for the Colts, especially when they want to groom a quarterback to potentially start in 2021? Signing Rivers could delay that process, or he could demand a trade after a year or two, where no team will come calling for that contract.

Let’s also point out that Rivers is now 38 years old, and while 2018 went very well, 2019 was in part a disaster. Now, that could be a fluke, but for someone clearly near the end of his career, it might be a sign of things to come. His gunslinger tendencies went off the reservation in 2019, and there’s a chance that continues in 2020. It’s not worth having Rivers throw back-breaking interceptions to cost the Colts in important games.

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The Verdict

If it’s possible, bringing in Philip Rivers is the right thing to do for the Colts, with some conditions. If Rivers would agree to a one year deal with an option for a second year, that would benefit the Colts in that there’s no commitment past 2020, and would give Rivers a chance at one more Super Bowl run. If things don’t work out or they believe in the quarterback they draft for 2021, they can let Rivers go, and he could get another contract elsewhere.

Will the signing happen? Time will tell, as free agency looms just over a month away.