SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers isn’t going to play forever.
At some point, the Los Angeles Chargers have to begin to prepare for life without the ultra-competitive, 35-year-old gunslinger.
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network hypothesizes that it could happen this year, with the Chargers selecting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson at No. 7 in his latest mock draft. Jeremiah writes that with the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, they can begin grooming Watson to take over for Rivers when the team opens the new Inglewood Stadium in 2019.
Rivers still has three years left on a five-year, $83.25 million contract extension he signed during the 2015 offseason. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has said he wants Rivers to retire with the franchise, and that Rivers still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
However, while talking with reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, Telesco did not rule out the possibility of drafting a developmental quarterback
The Chargers have not selected a quarterback since drafting Brad Sorensen in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. And the franchise has not selected a quarterback in the first round since taking Eli Manning No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft and trading him to the Giants for Rivers.
"Since I’ve been here, we’ve always done as much work (and put) as much resources in the quarterback position as every other position -- even though we have Philip Rivers," Telesco said. "Philip's still playing at a very high level and has a number of years left in his career.
"But that’s such an important position. We’re always evaluating it, always putting a lot of work into it. There’s really no fine line. We’re working at that position just like we’re working all the others."
Watson finished his time at Clemson 32-3 as a starter, including a win against Alabama in the national title game in his final season with the Tigers. At 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, Watson is athletic, throws with anticipation and seems to play his best in big games.
Though an interesting suggestion by Jeremiah, I don’t think the Chargers would take Watson at No. 7. This team is built to win now and still has several holes to fill in the draft and free agency. Taking Watson at No. 7 is a luxury pick the Chargers can’t afford as they try to attract fans in Los Angeles. They need a player in the first round who can contribute immediately.
The Chargers have done work on quarterbacks in the past, including offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt working out Paxton Lynch at his Memphis pro day last year, but I think the Chargers likely will take a quarterback on Day 2 of this year’s draft -- someone like Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes
or Cal's Davis Webb.
"In this league, regardless of where you are you’re always looking for quarterbacks," Whisenhunt. "But when you’ve had a guy that played at the level that’s Philip’s played for a long time, it’s hard to think about replacing that.
"And I don’t think he’s done by any stretch of the imagination. So, at some point you have to think about that. I just don’t know when that is."