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What Was Behind the Rivers-Chargers Divorce

Why both parties chose to move on, and what's next for the quarterback and for the team. Plus, the Ravens get a steal, expect Michigan State to try for Saleh again, Terrell Suggs on retirement, and one thing the NFL really likes about the XFL.

I get to the combine in two weeks, which feels like way too soon. But, clearly, the 2020 offseason is waiting for no one. So off we go …

Divorce is always tricky. So after talking to a couple people this afternoon, here’s what I feel comfortable with on the Chargers/Philip Rivers split: It was amicable, and it never came to the point where the team was asking the player to come back, or the player was asking for the team to take him back. Both knew it was time, and that was that. And really, the writing has been on the wall here for a little while. Rivers didn’t move his family to L.A. with the team two years ago, and the Chargers discussed benching him in December. With his contract set to expire in March, that the sides reached this conclusion is no shocker. Doing it now allows for everyone to plan accordingly.

So what’s next for Rivers? I’m told he has no plans to retire at this point. I also know that he plans to be coaching his son Gunner—who’s currently a fifth grader—when he gets to high school, which would be in the fall of 2023. As for where he goes, there are a few places to consider. One would be Indianapolis. He’s close with Colts coach Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirriani, which doesn’t mean the team will want to sign him, but would be a carrot for Rivers to go there. Another is Tennessee, if the Titans don’t tag Ryan Tannehill. Nashville is less than two hours from where Rivers grew up. Then, there are situations like Tampa and New England, where things going awry with incumbent quarterbacks could create opportunity.

One thing that’s probably going to be less of a factor is geography. Rivers’s family is now situated on the Florida panhandle, with the closest NFL teams (Saints, Jaguars) about four hours away. The Titans might have a slight edge just because of their proximity to where Rivers is from. But their quarterback situation is yet to be cleared up. And to give you a full picture on this one, here’s the back-and-forth that Rivers and I had in August about his future.

The MMQB: How much longer do you think you want to go?
Rivers: I kept saying a handful, a handful, a handful. I know I can’t keep saying a handful forever. I think it’s just kind of a year at a time. I do love to still play. I don’t have a set number. I don’t know if it’s four, or it’s three. But I’m just in the present this year. And I think that’s just best suited for me and our family, than saying, alright, I’m gonna try and go until x. I really don’t have that number. I think when I know, I’ll know. Not putting an, alright, this is it, on it too far out in advance.

The MMQB: Do you know where you want to be when you’re done?
Rivers: I know what I’m gonna do when I’m done, which I think I’ve told you – I wanna coach high school football. And my oldest boy is gonna be a fifth-grader, so I certainly have a little bit of time.

The MMQB: So you want to coach him?
Rivers: Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t really see that as one of those – alright, he’s a 10 grader, I gotta go right now. I’m not gonna run it right up to that. But he’s a fifth-grader, that leaves you not quite a handful. I really don’t know. I feel great. I love it. I love it.

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So where do the Chargers go from here? They have the sixth pick in the draft, which means they’ll at least be within striking distance of any quarterback not named Joe Burrow (and that’s presuming the Bengals keep the pick and take him). And they have a solid stopgap on the roster in Tyrod Taylor. Or they could try to bring a certain California native back to his home state. Whether Tom Brady would want to, or the Chargers would be willing to spend to make it happen, remains to be seen. But it sure is fun to imagine.

The Ravens keeping Chuck Clark at just over $5 million per in new money is like stealing (and I’m not blaming Clark, who, as a former sixth-rounder, had his first chance at life-changing cash). The 24-year-old emerged as a standout this year, and took Eric Weddle’s role as the secondary’s traffic director—pretty impressive for a fourth-year guy. Over 12 starts, Clark played four different positions. And while he’s not athletic enough to be a center-fielding safety, he’s the kind of jack of all trades that a lot of teams are looking for to combat this era’s offenses. My guess is, at 28, health-permitting, he’ll be in line for a much bigger financial windfall. With this deal, by the way, there will come some fallout. I’m told this almost certainly spells the end for Tony Jefferson in Baltimore.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan State circles back with guys that initially turned them down, in the wake of Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell walking away from a chance to take over there. And that would probably mean another call to 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. MSU officials actually flew to California to meet with Saleh last week. Saleh—who once coached at State and has family connections there as a Detroit-area native—politely told them that he was staying in the NFL.

• When Terrell Suggs and I spoke Sunday about the Chiefs’ performance against the 49ers, we did eventually get around to his future. And he’s not quite ready to say whether or not he’s done. His deal in K.C. is up. “I don’t know,” he said. “Coming off that Super Bowl high, it’s easy to say it, Let’s do it again. But it’s difficult to repeat. I don’t know. I’m thinking I’ll make next year’s decision when it’s time to make it. The season just ended, so I’m trying not to think about it, I’m trying to rush into making a decision.” Suggs will turn 38 during the 2020 season, which would be his 18th in the NFL.

• The NFL’s competition committee will meet this week ahead of the scouting combine, and for the millionth consecutive year replay will be discussed. Based on who’s in that room, I’d expect that the idea of adding a sky judge will be raised again, when they review how the pass-interference changes went (not well) in 2019.

Everyone’s discussing Patrick Mahomes’s new deal—and we broke down why it’d be smart for the Chiefs to do it now in last week’s GamePlan. What I’m hearing less about is what it means for everyone else. If I’m the Cowboys or Texans, I’m probably be working hard to get my quarterback signed now, because there’s a pretty good chance that Mahomes resets the market whenever his deal gets done, and does it with an eight-figure number that starts with a “4.”

• One last thing on the XFL weekend (and our own Conor Orr did a good job breaking it down): The league has been well-received by NFL scouting types. It’s great for the development of guys who play positions where backups rarely get into games (quarterbacks, offensive linemen), and it’s good place to evaluate players who are on the fringes of the league. And it can also be a place where guys who may have entered the pros before they were ready can go develop. Fair to say, that’s enough for NFL folks to root for the survival of Vince McMahon’s fledgling league, which has a better chance to survive than the AAF did on funding alone. Now, we’ll all see how much the ratings drop from Week 1 to 2, because that will probably be indicative of where this is going next.

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