Unlike last year at this time when there was noise suggesting Philip Rivers wouldn't sign an extension, this year the Chargers have their signal-caller locked down through what will likely be his most productive remaining years.
Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld ranks every team's quarterback situation each year, and he evaluates more than just which player he thinks is better: he also accounts for the relative age, history of injuries and other types of context to determine the best situations. Put simply, teams with a young franchise quarterback are going to rate higher than teams with an older one like the Chargers.
This year, the Chargers moved up in the rankings from 16th to 12th, jumping the Ravens and Joe Flacco, the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill, the Cowboys and Tony Romo, and the Vikings and Teddy Bridgewater. Anyway, here's what Patrick had to say about the 2016 Chargers:
By nearly every account, Philip Rivers remains in his prime. He’s averaged 4,519 yards and 31 touchdowns over his past three campaigns, and completed a dazzling 67.3 percent of his passes. If there’s a problem, it’s not necessarily Rivers’ age (34), but his wheezing finishes the past two seasons. In 2014, Rivers’ quarterback rating for games 1-8 was 109.9. 9-16? 79.2. It was the same story last year, with Rivers’ splits checking in at 102.1 and 84.6. Injury was to blame in 2014, but that’s not comforting for an aging signal caller. The issue last season was a hollowed-out supporting cast, something that should be improved by Travis Benjamin and better injury luck. In theory, Rivers is a prime suspect for a near-future collapse, but even with the 2014-15 fades, his recent numbers are impossible to ignore. Throw in a career that’s featured injury but zero missed games, and you have a well above average quarterback who will probably continue to cheat football death the next 2-3 years.
While those are mostly kind words being thrown Rivers' way, I cannot help but think he is still being slightly undersold. Those late-season collapses (or wheezing finishes, as it were), have been precipitated by injuries that have largely been the result of incompetent line play in front of El Capitan. There is every reason to believe that with the addition of Matt Slauson (and the eventual release of Trevor Robinson) Rivers will be able to step up into the pocket in 2016. Few quarterbacks move as well in the pocket as Rivers, and few are quite as ill-suited to being flushed from said pocket. This year, there ought to be a non-collapsing pocket on more passing downs.
Also missing from this analysis, which again is largely positive, is the return of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, and presumably the return of the quick passing offense in which Rivers thrived three seasons ago. That quick-hitting short passing game will further cover for the weaknesses of the offensive line and further play into the strengths of the Chargers quarterback.
Now, obviously, Rivers' age is going to eventually become a concern. Great quarterbacks are great until they simply are not anymore (see: Manning, Peyton). But if you're willing to set aside the possibility that Rivers has reached the edge of the cliff this offseason, you cannot help but be optimistic about the Chargers' quarterback situation in 2016.
And, hey, there's always Zach Mettenberger sitting on the bench.