INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indianapolis Colts officially announced the signing of free agent quarterback Philip Rivers on Saturday, the 2020 season’s biggest question was answered.
But several more long-term queries remain.
While Rivers will be the starter whenever NFL offseason activities get underway, he’s only under contract for one season. The 38-year-old clearly is energized by his arrival with the Colts and is open to playing beyond that deal, but he’s already planning for the end of his playing career.
Rivers played for his father, Steve, as a high school star in Decatur, Ala., and hopes to one day follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“I do feel good. I feel great,” Rivers said. “If I feel like I feel right now next year, then I’ll be excited to keep going. Again, depending on how the team feels about that and etc. So, I don’t know. I don’t have a number on (how long I’ll keep playing).
“Like I said, I want to coach my son, my oldest son. I have two boys that are 12 and 8 (years old). He’ll be a sixth-grader, so we have a little bit of time, but that is important to me to coach him in high school. So, if that gives you a little idea. I’m not going to get carried away. I don’t think you’ll see me in the Tom Brady range. But I am excited and feel like I can still help a football team go win a championship.”
Brady will play at age 43 next season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has often stated his goal is to play until he’s 45.
Rivers told long-time Los Angeles Times NFL writer Sam Farmer last month he hopes to play two more seasons but is taking things one year at a time.
The obvious question for Indianapolis is what comes next?
If Rivers plays well and still has the desire, it seems likely a deal could be worked out for 2021. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.
Even after releasing veteran backup Brian Hoyer on Saturday, the Colts have a fairly crowded quarterback room.
Jacoby Brissett has 32 career starts over four NFL seasons, including 15 in Indianapolis last year after Andrew Luck’s retirement, and could be retained on the final year of his contract as an insurance policy.
Chad Kelly did a good job rehabilitating his image last season with the Colts but has taken just one regular-season snap since being drafted in the seventh round by the Denver Broncos in 2017.
Perhaps, the 25-year-old Kelly will serve as the lone developmental quarterback on the roster this year. But Indianapolis certainly could look to add another player in the draft.
Washington’s Jacob Eason, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Washington State’s Anthony Gordon are among the quarterbacks likely to be taken on the draft’s second day in April.
If a rookie is added to the mix, it’s unlikely both Brissett and Kelly will remain on the roster into the regular season.
There could be a market for Brissett, who earned a $7 million guaranteed roster bonus Sunday. An acquiring team would be responsible for just $8 million of his $15 million salary, and he could be attractive as a veteran mentor for a team with a young starter.
Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants could fall into that category.
There’s also been talk his former team – the New England Patriots, who made him a third-round draft pick in 2016 – could have interest in a reunion.
But it’s clear Colts general manager Chris Ballard is in no hurry to dump him. Ballard resisted overtures to trade Brissett last offseason and then signed him to a new two-year, $30 million deal after Luck’s sudden retirement in August.
If Brissett is traded, Indianapolis could clear nearly $16 million off its salary cap. If he’s cut, the savings drops to a little less than $9 million.
But the Colts value Brissett’s leadership and competitiveness and consider him an important piece of the locker room culture.
It also sounds as though Rivers believes the two can coexist.
“I have a lot of respect for Jacoby, obviously, the way he handled everything last year – kind of the whole thing going down with the change there,” Rivers said. “I’ve never heard a negative thing about Jacoby – from being a great teammate, being a good leader, being one of the guys in the locker room and all those things.
“Obviously, (he’s) an N.C. State guy, so we have that in common. I don’t know him real well, other than ‘Hello’ when we’ve played him. But I’ve always been thankful for our quarterback room and how the dynamic has always been. We’ve always competed like crazy but pulled for one another, and I don’t anticipate it being any different.”