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Would Philip Rivers be an improvement for 2020 Bucs?

With rumors swirling about the Chargers’ quarterback, how much of an improvement would he be?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, rumor season. The initial hype heading into the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine where every team is connected to every player at a position of need, allowing fans to either get excited or roll their eyes at the very notion of Player X being linked to their squad. But alas, that’s where we are and that’s what happens this time of year.

The latest is the rumor that Philip Rivers could be the Buccaneers’ signal caller in 2020 as the Bucs would draft and develop a younger guy to take the reins for the long term within a year or two. Signing a veteran player now, focusing on offensive or defensive line in round one, and scoring a developmental quarterback in day two could be enough to send the Bucs to the postseason for the first time in over a decade.

But is Rivers that guy?

Looking at it, Rivers and Jameis Winston aren’t that drastically different. The biggest change is the fact that Winston has 121 touchdowns and 88 interceptions (1.375:1 ratio) while Rivers has 397 touchdowns and 198 interceptions (2:1 ratio). Rivers has a higher quarterback rating and completion percentage, but the differences aren’t groundbreaking and nearly negligible. Rivers has been sacked far more often, but that’s thanks to many more years in the league. He gets sacked an average of two times per game while Winston is at 2.3.

So again, I ask - is Rivers really an improvement over Winston?

Overall, I’d say probably not. Rivers is reaching the end of his career and doesn’t possess the arm strength he once did. He struggled during the 2019 season, finishing with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions (third most). He can’t push the ball down the field the way Winston can, but on the flip side he does a better overall job of protecting the ball so we’ll call that a wash.

2019 was only the third time in Rivers’ career that he threw for 20 or more interceptions and the Chargers had a laundry list of injury issues all season long. While that certainly played into it, Rivers made some bad passes and bad decisions leading to many of the turnovers.

As I said a week ago, it’ll boil down to the business side. For starters, does Rivers want to play in Tampa? People have cited his move to Florida as a sign he would want to play here. He moved to the panhandle, so it isn’t like he’s right down the street, so scratch out that theory. Second, what would he cost? If his price tag is similar to that of Winston’s - that is, if Winston even wants to return - then you’re probably better off rolling the dice with Winston on a short term deal (franchise tag) to see if he improves in year two under Arians.

What many tend to forget is that this is a two-way street on all accounts. The Buccaneers and Winston have to want to get a deal done with one another. If one side doesn’t want to reunite, then it won’t happen and other plans need to be made. It isn’t as simple as the Bucs saying “We want you back,” or Winston saying “I want to be back.” If the two aren’t on the same page, they’ll both move on.

Rivers is a possible replacement if that is indeed the case, but if all things are equal - interest, price, length of deal - then Winston may be the better of the two for the immediate future.