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Chargers

Philip Rivers ‘not going anywhere’ any time soon, Chargers GM says

FOXBOROUGH, MA, SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2019 - Philip Rivers takes the field to take on the New England
Philip Rivers takes the field to face the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He has one year remaining on his contract but almost certainly more than one year remaining with the Chargers.

Philip Rivers just finished a season that Tom Telesco called “tremendous,” the team’s general manager saying Thursday that the veteran quarterback is “not going anywhere.”

Telesco wouldn’t officially commit to offering an extension to Rivers this offseason but said he planned to discuss the possibility with Rivers’ representatives in the coming months.

He said his approach with Rivers has been year-to-year of late, while adding, “I know he’s got more than that” left.

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Rivers, who turned 37 in December, just finished his 15th season with the Chargers, the past 13 as the starter. He has said he’d like to play at least through 2020, when the team moves into a new stadium in Inglewood.

“I couldn’t put a number on it,” Telesco said when asked how many more seasons Rivers could play. “Six years I’ve been here, he’s playing better now than when I first got here.”

Rivers completed 347 of 508 attempts in 2018 with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His rating of 105.5 matched the second-highest of his career. He has made 208 consecutive starts since taking over in 2006.

While Rivers is staying put, Telesco was unable to assure the same regarding wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who will be a free agent and has the potential to sign a lucrative deal.

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Undrafted out of Western Oregon in 2015, Williams has established himself as a reliable target capable of big plays. His 15.9 yards per catch this season led the team.

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With some depth at wide receiver and the continued development of Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams could prove too costly for the Chargers.

“Those are the tough questions to have,” Telesco said about assessing whether Williams could fit into the team’s 2019 budget. “He has earned his next contract, certainly.”

So too has defensive back Adrian Phillips, another undrafted success story and soon-to-be free agent. His rise over the past five years culminated this season with his selection as an All-Pro special teams player.

Telesco called Phillips “the heart and soul of this defense, no doubt” following a year in which he became a versatile starting safety with the ability to move up to linebacker when injuries ravaged the position.

Re-signing Phillips would seem to be an obvious priority, although it’s too soon to gauge his value in the free-agent market.

“He’s been a great story,” Telesco said. “… I literally released him eight times. Eight times, he came into my office to let him go and he always handled it professional … You can tell his story for years and years to come.”

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Williams and Phillips are among 14 unrestricted free agents for the Chargers, the group including defensive line starters Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Darius Philon, and starting linebackers Denzel Perryman and Kyle Emanuel.

Because of injuries, the Chargers started seven defensive backs and no linebackers in their two playoff games, with mixed results. Telesco said linebacker is a position “we need to focus on pretty heavily in the offseason.”

He also said he would “definitely” look into the possibility of offering a contract extension to running back Melvin Gordon and expects 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp to be “in the mix” to start at right guard next season.

Telesco called cornerback Jason Verrett, another free agent who missed most of the past two years because of injury, “certainly a possibility” to return and praised the leadership of safety Jahleel Addae.

He said he was pleased with the play of the Chargers offensive linemen as a group but noted that their performance fell off in the final three games of the regular season.

“I don’t think it’s broken, so I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “We just have to figure out what was not going as planned those last three games.”

Another headline-making decision for Telesco will be what to do with Antonio Gates. The veteran tight end and fan favorite was no longer in the team’s plans entering last offseason. But when Hunter Henry suffered a knee injury in May, the Chargers went back to Gates, who didn’t re-sign until right before the season opener. He said he’d like to continue playing in 2019.

Telesco said he appreciated how Gates handled the situation a year ago and will be “forever grateful for that.”

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“My heart says, ‘Yeah, he’ll be back,’ ” Telesco said. “But you put the GM hat on and you have to look at what’s the role. What are our resources? How [does] everything fit together? We’ll come to that conclusion a lot quicker than we did last year.”

A position that has been bothersome in recent seasons, kicker, appears to be set.

Telesco indicated Michael Badgley eliminated concerns with a promising rookie season during which he hit 15 of 16 field goal tries. Badgley kicked a franchise-record five field goals in a playoff victory at Baltimore.

“I think the football gods finally smiled on us,” Telesco said. “When you have as many at-bats as we did, you figure at some point you’re going to hit on one. He did tremendous. He was awesome.”

jeff.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffMillerLAT


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