As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Times will examine their roster. Part 7 of eight: quarterbacks.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has it good.
His team has a quarterback, Philip Rivers, he can trust. The veteran is under contract, never gets hurt, is a strong leader and hard worker.
But, he’s not ageless. And, sooner or later, a change will have to happen.
It’s a dilemma Telesco has had to tackle in the past handful of Chargers drafts as he’s tried to balance taking a player who could help his team now versus one selected with an eye to the future.
In the past, Rivers has been standoffish about his eventual replacement joining the team. Just last year, he told a radio station in San Diego that whoever comes in would “sit for a while.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn wasn’t as convinced last offseason, but after Rivers put together one of the best seasons in his lengthy career, Lynn seems to be on the same page.
“Philip, he’s still playing like a young man. This is going to be his squad,” Lynn said Monday. “If we bring in another quarterback, it’s definitely a guy we feel like can sit for a couple of years and play behind Philip and learn, and maybe be the future.”
Still, Telesco is looking.
Two logical choices would be Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, regarded as the best outside the four expected to be taken in the top 10 overall.
Jackson might make the most sense for the kind of offense Lynn would like to run — a gifted runner who forces the defense to account for the quarterback instead of being able to play 11-on-10.
Rudolph is a more traditional choice — an accurate passer from a high-powered college offense who shredded lesser defenses in his conference.
The Chargers also could look at some of the development projects deeper in the draft. They’ve already gotten younger depth-wise, acquiring Cardale Jones last preseason and signing free agent Geno Smith this offseason.
Even though the Chargers need to keep an eye out for their next franchise quarterback, Rivers isn’t ready to concede anything yet.
“You know at some point we are going to draft a guy, and I don’t see that as any negative,” Rivers said Monday. “I think Tom, [team president] John [Spanos] and coach Lynn, these guys know my desire to continue going and hopefully play at a high level for a handful of more years.
“But at the same time, shoot, as an organization you’ve got to prepare for down the road. If the right guy they see fit, at some point they’re going to have to make that decision.”
Quarterbacks under contract: Philip Rivers ($22 million), Geno Smith ($1 million), Cardale Jones ($630,000).
Free agents: Any discussion about quarterbacks on the market is incomplete without mentioning Colin Kaepernick, who didn’t play last season after becoming a leading voice in NFL social protests. The Chargers don’t need a quarterback as of now and, even if they did, it seems as if Kaepernick wouldn’t be the direction they’d go.
Draft: If the Chargers take a quarterback, it seems unlikely to happen in the first round. Still, there are some other intriguing talents available. Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Washington State’s Luke Falk and Toledo’s Logan Woodside are names to remember.
Roster decisions: If a quarterback is drafted, especially in later rounds, he’ll be in a fight with Jones and Smith for a roster spot. The Chargers carried three quarterbacks a season ago, and it appears they’ll do so again in 2018. If they add a rookie they like, the Chargers will have to choose between Smith and Jones for the final spot.
NEXT: Running backs.