Rivers trade rumors leaves a lot of question marks at the top of the draft

NFL Draft NFL Draft Predictions

Philip Rivers remains one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL, and has played extremely well over the past two seasons. Despite that level of talent, it is sounding more and more that he won’t be suiting up next season for the San Diego Chargers next season. Rivers is under contract for one more season, but reports are that he’s unwilling to negotiate an extension for 2016 and beyond. The Chargers of course would have the option to use the franchise tag on him guaranteeing his rights for 2016, but Rivers could just decide to not play and retire leaving San Diego in a serious bind. This is why in a quarterback driven league with a pretty serious drop-off after the top 10-12 guys, Rivers could very well be on the block. Here is a look at 3 possible suitors and how a deal could impact the draft:

Tennessee Titans:

Why it could happen:

-The Titans are desperate for a quarterback and they just so happen to be coached by former Charger offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who helped Rivers have a big year in 2013. The Titans would also possibly appeal to Rivers given that it’s been reported he would like to go back to the south where he is from (Alabama). The Chargers are reportedly very high on Marcus Mariota so working out a deal with the Titans at the 2nd pick would ensure they get their replacement for Rivers.

Why it might not happen:

-While it sounds good on paper that everyone would be happy with a Titans-Chargers trade, I don’t think it is as easy as that. While Rivers might want to play closer to his hometown, and probably wouldn’t mind playing again for Whisenhunt, he would be committing to playing out his career with one of the weakest rosters in the NFL. In Rivers’ 9 years as a starter in San Diego, he only experienced 1 losing season (7-9 in 2012), and went to the playoffs in 5 seasons. Does he really want to finish out his career with a team that might be 3 or more years from being a playoff team? Adding Rivers will of course help the Titans chances, but that roster will need a lot of things go right for them to get back into contention sooner.

In addition to Rivers possible reservations, both the Titans and Chargers may not be keen on the deal as well. From the Titans perspective they would be giving up the 2nd overall pick in the draft and a potential young QB who could be a top 10 guy (or any picks or deals they could work out). Whether they select Mariota or someone else they would be cost controlled as well, compared to shelling out a massive deal for Rivers after this season. It would make sense if the Titans were a contender but they are really rebuilding, and by the time they are ready to contend Rivers may no longer resemble the top 10 QB they paid for. If the Titans demand picks or other assets back the Chargers are going to balk given that they are getting rid of a top 10 QB who is still playing at a very good level. In fact that Chargers might not even be okay with essentially the Rivers for Mariota swap straight up. They could see it that Rivers despite his not wanting to be in SD, and his price tag and age, still has more value in a trade.

Chicago Bears:

Why it could happen:

-The Bears have a new coaching staff who isn’t tied to Jay Cutler and they want to win. John Fox didn’t come to Chicago to try to rebuild that team and with the offensive pieces they have in place, a top quarterback could quickly put them back at the top of their division. The Bears could offer a package of picks including the 7th overall selection and probably a 1st round pick next year. Chicago would also try to throw in Cutler, who while not on Rivers level, is better than people give him credit for. The Chargers probably would have no shot at Mariota (unless they offer a major package of picks), but they would have both draft resources and a middle of the pack QB who could help them compete.

From Rivers perspective, Chicago doesn’t move him that much closer to home, but it does put him in a more favorable situation. The Bears offense is better than what he has in San Diego and clearly better than what the Titans would offer. They also have a coach that Rivers faced off against in San Diego in Fox, so he’s likely pretty familiar with him on some level. The Bears new offensive coordinator Adam Gase had a good open game plan for Peyton Manning in Denver, and would likely help Rivers have a big year in Chicago.

Why it might not happen:

-I don’t see the hang-up here being from Rivers, but it’s possible he would be dead set against going to Chicago. The bigger concern is would the Chargers be satisfied with either turning their offensive over to Cutler or not having Cutler as part of the deal and just getting the picks back in return. After Mariota the draft options really dry up and it could leave the Chargers in a rough situation.

The Bears may balk some at the price, but unless they are getting down right gouged, I think they would be in the mix.

Buffalo Bills:

Why it could happen:

-The Bills have arguably one of the top 5 rosters in the NFL if you take the QB position out of the equation. Their defense is stacked with star talent and should easily be one of the top units in the league. Offensively the Bills have one of the best skill position groups in league with Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, and Robert Woods at wide receiver, Charles Clay at tight end, and LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson at running back. Their offensive line could still use some help, but it should be at least average. Unfortunately for them they are deciding between E.J. Manuel or Matt Cassel at QB, which is why they would be looking at Philip Rivers.

While Buffalo isn’t exactly close to home, Rivers would be playing on a very talented roster led by a pretty good coach in Rex Ryan. Ryan was pretty successful with the Jets and he didn’t have near the offensive talent he has now in Buffalo and he never had a quarterback anywhere close to Rivers.

This isn’t as ideal for the Chargers because there isn’t a quarterback coming back their way in this deal and the Bills are without a 1st round pick, but the one positive here is the Bills are ready to contend so if anyone is going to “overpay” it’s going to be Buffalo. San Diego could get a massive long term return from Buffalo including possibly their 1st rounders in both 2016 and 2017.

Why it might not happen:

-The problem with this deal is of course the Chargers would have a very uncertain return. The majority of the value coming back to the Chargers would be in future selections meaning they would have to wait longer to see a big return on this deal. That is a risk for any team, but may be too much of a risk for a team that is either looking for a new stadium in San Diego or relocating to Los Angeles by 2016.

For the Bills they would need to find some creative ways to get the cap room available to fit Rivers under it this year and going forward. It’s not impossible, but it could lead to some tough decisions down the road.

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