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Chargers draft analysis: Backup plans for Philip Rivers are in order

Chargers draft analysis: Backup plans for Philip Rivers are in order
Philip Rivers takes the field in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 7 of 8: Quarterbacks.

Philip Rivers is in his final days as quarterback of the Chargers.

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OK, that sentence is based solely on his contract, which states that he will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2019 season.

In reality, no one expects Rivers to reach that point, least of all Rivers himself. More than likely, he’ll sign an extension before the season kicks off and remain the team’s growling face on offense for at least a couple more years.

Rivers, 37, has indicated he has no plans of playing deep into his 40s, unlike New England health advocate Tom Brady, who more than once has made that proclamation about himself — between licks of avocado ice cream, of course.

Entering his 16th year and 14th as a starter, Rivers has stated he wants to be playing when the Chargers move into the new Inglewood stadium for the 2020 season. Beyond that, he has remained vague.

He is coming off one of his finest statistical seasons, with the clear consensus being he could continue playing at a high enough level longer than two more years.

The NFL and its rules certainly are trending in a direction that encourages longer quarterback play, Brady and Drew Brees the two brightest examples of what can happen when a league decides to protect its most coveted assets.

But Rivers, despite remaining so competitive that he is still regularly asked about yelling at opponents and teammates on the field, also has made it known he is looking forward to retiring and becoming a high school coach.

Wherever he and the Chargers settle in negotiations, the team still figures to remain in search of a potential quarterback of the future.

And that means the Chargers won’t stop being a rumored destination if Arizona decides to draft Kyler Murray No. 1 overall next week and, in turn, trade Josh Rosen.

It certainly makes for an intriguing and logical assumption, Rosen being an L.A. kid who played at UCLA and would be taking over for the Chargers shortly after the team moved into a new stadium. New digs, new era.

But all of that is still down the road. Rivers and the Chargers have more football to play first.

Under contract for 2019: Philip Rivers ($23 million), Tyrod Taylor ($3.5 million), Cardale Jones ($645,000).

Free agents: Former NFL starter Tyrod Taylor was signed in March to back up Rivers, an upgrade over Geno Smith a year ago. Taylor and coach Anthony Lynn have history going back to their days in Buffalo, that strong bond one of the reasons they have reunited.

Draft: This is not considered a particularly deep draft for quarterbacks. Still, Brady is proof that players at the game’s most vital position can be found anywhere. The Chargers certainly are considering all the options.

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Roster decisions: As much sense as Rosen-to-the-Chargers makes, adding him now would invite some potential awkwardness between good friends Taylor and Lynn and rely on the sometimes-polarizing Rosen accepting being buried on the bench for who knows how long — just one season after he started 13 NFL games. Given the Chargers’ projected game-day roster makeup and commitment to Taylor, who signed for two years, trading for Rosen might not be as simple as it appears.

NEXT: Running backs.

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