The rumor has become reality.
Indianapolis has agreed to terms with long-time Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in free agency, a person with knowledge of the deal told the USA TODAY Network, in a move that likely ends Jacoby Brissett’s time as the Colts’ starter at the position. The person spoke on condition on anonymity because the deal cannot be completed until the start of the new league year on Wednesday.
The Colts signed the 38-year-old Rivers to a one-year deal worth $25 million, according to ESPN.
Facing uncertainty at the quarterback position for the first time in more than two decades in Indianapolis, Colts owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and Frank Reich made a move at the game’s most important position, a move made just hours after Ballard made an enormous splash by trading his first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
“It’s the quarterback position,” Irsay said before the start of the NFL Scouting Combine. “The three of us will make the call. It’s too big of a decision. All options are on the table.”
The Colts ended up going with the option that seemed obvious all along.
Rivers, the San Diego legend who is sixth on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list, is coming off of a disappointing season with the Chargers. Battered behind a subpar offensive line, Rivers threw 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, and at the age of 38, it’s fair to wonder how much good football Rivers has left in him.
On the other side of the coin, Rivers instantly upgrades two areas where Brissett struggled last season. The veteran quarterback completed 66 percent of his passes and threw for 4,615 yards at an average of 7.8 yards per attempt, far above Brissett’s numbers of 60.9 percent and 6.6 yards per attempt, numbers that were far worse in the second half of the season.
The biggest difference between the two is that Brissett is famously risk-averse, reluctant to pull the trigger in an effort to protect the football, and Rivers has always had a bit of a gunslinger’s mentality, leading the NFL in interceptions twice.
Indianapolis clearly believes Rivers can still play, and that he’ll bounce back for a franchise that seems tailor-made for him. Rivers has a good relationship with Reich, who coached him for three seasons in San Diego, and the Colts have one of the league’s best offensive lines, presumably taking pressure off of the statuesque Rivers.
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Three weeks ago, at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Colts were still saying that anything was possible at the quarterback position. Irsay, Ballard and Reich all issued defenses of the way Brissett played in a disappointing audition as the full-time starter last season, while repeatedly saying they were open to anything.
But signing Rivers gives Indianapolis a quarterback who clearly wants to be a starter in the final years of his career.
In all likelihood, signing Rivers will not necessarily keep the Colts from drafting a quarterback in April, although it will be more difficult now that Indianapolis no longer has a first-round pick. At the age of 38, Rivers is nearing the end of his career, but signing him gives Indianapolis a player in place who might be capable of leading the Colts to the playoffs while they search for a young franchise quarterback over the next couple of years.
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