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Friday February 28th, 2020 10:16PM

Chargers QB Rivers will enter free agency after 16 seasons

By The Associated Press
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COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers' 16-year career with the Chargers has come to an end.

The franchise announced Monday that Rivers will enter free agency and won't return to Los Angeles for the upcoming season. General manager Tom Telesco said in a statement that as they talked through various scenarios with Rivers, it became apparent it would be best for both “to turn the page on what has truly been a remarkable run.”

Rivers' future in powder blue was the main storyline late in the season after the Chargers were eliminated from postseason consideration. He said during the final weeks that he intended to play in 2020, even if that meant going to another team.

The 38-year old Rivers was emotional and in a reflective mood after the Chargers' 31-21 loss to Kansas City in the season finale. He acknowledged it would be weird to be in another uniform but didn't think it would be much of an adjustment.

Los Angeles made the playoffs in 2018 but was 5-11 this season with nine losses by one score. The seven-win decline was the worst dropoff in the league in 2019 and the second biggest in franchise history. Rivers' 4,615 passing yards were fourth in the league, but his 20 interceptions were third most and just one off tying a career high.

Rivers moved his family to Florida last month from their longtime home in San Diego. He commuted between the team's Orange County headquarters and San Diego since the franchise moved in 2017.

“I am very grateful to the Spanos family and the Chargers organization for the last 16 years,” Rivers said in a statement. “In anything you do, it’s the people you do it with that make it special. There are so many relationships and memories with coaches, support staff and teammates that will last forever, and for that I am so thankful. We had a lot of great moments, beginning in San Diego and then finishing in LA. I wish my teammates and coaches nothing but the best moving forward."

Rivers was selected fourth overall by the New York Giants in the 2004 draft but was traded to the Chargers in a draft day deal for Eli Manning, who announced his retirement last month. Rivers went on to set 30 franchise records with the Chargers and was an eight-time selection to the Pro Bowl. He also led the Chargers to the playoffs six times but only twice since 2010.

His 224 consecutive regular-season starts are second-most among quarterbacks in NFL history and his 123 wins are ninth. He is one of six quarterbacks to eclipse 50,000 career yards and his 397 touchdowns are sixth.

“I’ve said before that Philip can still compete at a top-starter level and, in a perfect world, number 17 is your quarterback forever. Obviously, we live in an imperfect world where the only constant is change," Telesco said. "I think Philip’s tremendous perspective, both when it comes to football and when it comes to life, helped lend clarity to a very complex situation.”

The Chargers have plenty of questions that need to be answered during the offseason as they prepare to move into SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. They have the sixth pick in the draft in what looks to be a deep quarterback class that includes LSU's Joe Burrow, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert. The Rivers announcement comes two weeks before the NFL scouting combine begins in Indianapolis.

Los Angeles also has quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick under contract. Taylor will be entering his 10th season and has 46 starts with Buffalo and Cleveland. Stick was selected in the fifth round last season.

Besides Rivers, the Chargers' other top free agents include running back Melvin Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry, safety Adrian Phillips and fullback Derek Watt. Running back Austin Ekeler is a restricted free agent. Telesco said last month that he expects to have some salary cap flexibility when free agency begins March 18.

“There’s only one Philip Rivers, and we’ve been fortunate to call him our QB1 for the better part of two decades," owner Dean Spanos said. "We cannot thank Philip enough for giving it his all on every single down and for the memories he created that will last a lifetime.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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