For the first time since 2006, the Chargers will evaluate this year's crop of quarterbacks without durable No. 17 at the top of the depth chart. Tyrod Taylor tentatively holds down that spot, with last year’s fifth-round selection, Easton Stick, slotted as his backup.
If Chargers general manager Tom Telesco chooses to look to free agency for a quick solution, bringing in someone like Tom Brady would certainly help sell tickets and boost the Chargers' fledgling footprint in L.A. since relocating three years ago.
The Bolts have legitimate interest in Brady, but it's fair to question if the franchise is willing to pay $30 million annually for a 42-year-old quarterback after letting a 38-year-old one go who would have been in a similar price range.
A more likely scenario is the Chargers look to add someone like Marcus Mariota in free agency. He fits Lynn's desire for a mobile quarterback. The Chargers held a private workout for Mariota in Eugene just before the 2015 draft, when speculation had them potentially trading Rivers to Tennessee for the chance to select the University of Oregon product. Mariota would come at a much-reduced price tag, giving the Bolts an option should Taylor struggle.
Both of those options might be short-term fixes, so the Chargers will certainly take a long look at drafting a young signal-caller early to develop as the team's franchise quarterback.
"Our draft process won't change at all from previous years," Telesco said. "We probably haven't done a lot in free agency in years past because we had a starter here for a long time that we were very happy with. We used free agency a little bit in a backup role, like we did with Tyrod Taylor and some others. So we'll probably do a little bit more work in free agency there, but I would say draft-wise there really wouldn't be any changes with Philip not being here.”
With Rivers in the rearview mirror, the Chargers finally can start to implement a succession plan for the franchise's all-time leading passer. Since taking over as the team's general manager in 2013, Telesco has selected just two quarterbacks in the draft -- Stick last year and Brad Sorensen in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.
Who could blame him? Telesco had the most durable quarterback in the NFL as his security blanket.
But earlier this month, Telesco, owner Dean Spanos, president of football operations John Spanos and head coach Anthony Lynn had a difficult decision to make, which ultimately resulted in the franchise moving on from Rivers.
"We were very lucky to have Philip for as long as we did, and I know for me I never took it for granted -- ever," Telesco said. "Despite the fact that you knew every week he was going to be out there playing, like he said in his words, he gave everything that he had, every single week and every single practice. And when you get that from your quarterback, everybody else tends to fall in line, with the accountability, toughness and leadership that he has. ... He's been here for such a long time. It's never easy in those situations, but everyone does what they think is best for the team."
The Chargers will attempt to find someone in this year's draft to fill the huge leadership void left by Rivers' absence and to compete for the starting job with Taylor.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa certainly checks a lot of boxes with his accuracy, athleticism and magnetic personality. However, the Chargers would have to clear a major hurdle with Tagovailoa's medical history, and that starts in Indy.
"The medical experts in that field, with three lower-extremity injuries, both ankles and the hip, are going to determine everything," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said about Tagovailoa. “Whether he's the third or fourth pick in the draft with somebody trading up, or he goes to Miami at five, the Chargers at six or he drops down to Indianapolis at 13 is going to be determined by the medical. I think he goes in the top five."
Lynn isn't a fan of players with injury histories. So if the Chargers have major heartburn over Tagovailoa's medical concerns, they could look to someone like Oregon's Justin Herbert. I detailed the reasons Herbert would be a fit for the Chargers here.
"We know he has the athletic, physical talent -- the arm talent, the athleticism and mobility," Kiper said about Herbert. "We know how intelligent he is. We know what a great kid he is. But is he instinctive enough as a quarterback and does he have that 'it' factor to be that incredible, off-the-charts competitor that a lot of times separates the good ones from the average ones, the great ones from the good ones? ... What level of competitor are you? I think that's what teams want to find out here.”
Along with quarterback, evaluating the top offensive line prospects in this year's draft will be a priority for the Bolts. Kiper has the Chargers selecting Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills at No. 6 in his latest mock draft.
The Chargers used five different offensive line combinations for a group that ranked No. 20 in pass block win rate last season, according to ESPN Analytics' new metric.
The team's most consistent linemen was right guard Michael Schofield III, the only offensive lineman to start every game for the Chargers last season. Schofield will be a free agent in March. Aging Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung already expressed uncertainty with the team's direction moving forward and his role in it, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.
Okung has one year left on his deal and is scheduled to make $13.5 million of non-guaranteed total compensation in 2020.