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Despite Philip Rivers’ exit, the LA Chargers 2020 season is full of potential

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 24: Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers throws a short pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quaarter during a pre-season NFL football game at Dignity Health Sports Park on August 24, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - AUGUST 24: Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers throws a short pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quaarter during a pre-season NFL football game at Dignity Health Sports Park on August 24, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
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For most NFL teams, making a change at quarterback signals at least a year or two of rebuilding. If the Los Angeles Chargers fill just a few major needs this offseason, the 2020 season has the potential to be a good one.

With the news of Philip Rivers and the Chargers splitting ways, expectations for the 2020 Chargers took a major dip as thoughts of rebuilding have emerged. While most teams that move on from a long-time quarterback expect a rebuilding process, this Chargers team could be different.

Moving on from a veteran usually signals that a franchise is hitting the reset button, as finding a new quarterback almost always means roster turnover and scheme adjustment.

While scheme adjustment is obviously coming, the Chargers appear to have a plan in place to prevent going through a full rebuild. Despite moving on from Rivers, Chargers fans should feel optimistic about 2020 for the following reasons.

Tyrod Taylor and the emergence of Anthony Lynn‘s offense

Unlike most teams undergoing a transition from one quarterback to another, the Chargers already have a veteran in place that is capable of taking a decent team to the playoffs.

In 2017, Tyrod Taylor led the Buffalo Bills to a Wild Card playoff berth. In 14 games, his stats were unspectacular, as he had just 2,799 passing yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with 427 rushing yards.

However, those stats do not truly demonstrate Taylor’s value or ability. In Taylor’s time with the Bills (his primary starting experience), the talent surrounding him was far below average.

Taylor compiled those statistics while his top receiving options were Charles Clay, Lesean McCoy, and Deonte Thompson. Pair the fact that he received nearly no help with his extremely low interception rate, and you get a quarterback that was rated in the top-10 at his position by PFF during his years as a starter.

During his 3 years as a starter in Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor was a top 10 PFF graded QB, so why can't he be the starter for the 2020 season?https://t.co/OkwPYVtjip

— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) February 18, 2020

While some consider his low-risk play style to be boring, that could certainly change when his weapons improve from Clay, McCoy, and Thompson to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Hunter Henry.

Furthermore, while the game of Taylor will certainly be a transition for the Chargers offense, it will be a transition into an offense in which Taylor and Lynn both feel comfortable, given that Lynn had some time calling plays near the end of Taylor’s starting time in Buffalo.

At the very least, Taylor’s starting experience and low turnover rate should tell fans that the 2020 season is not a rebuilding one. It has potential with Taylor as the quarterback.

Few major needs must be filled

However, it takes more than a quarterback to be a contending team. While the Chargers do have some holes on the roster, the number of positions that need to be filled are relatively few.

If you exclude quarterback, the Chargers’ major needs can be distilled into just three position groups – the offensive line, receiver depth, and cornerback.

Obtaining a third receiver that is more productive than the combination of Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, and Andre Patton should not prove too difficult.

That leaves the need to find a second starting cornerback and some improvements on the offensive line, particularly at right tackle and left guard.

Finding three new, higher-level starters is difficult but doable. However, the Chargers should have a better chance to do so this year than in past years because…

The Chargers finally have cap space to fill needs (and retain stars)

The silver lining in allowing Rivers to walk is that the move essentially freed up about $20 million in cap space (assuming Rivers were to ask for about the same contract as last year). With that, the Chargers are expected to have about $60 million in total cap space before accounting for their own free agents.

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While Rivers was (and is probably still capable of being) a great quarterback, teams that pay great amounts for quarterbacks usually do not fare well in the postseason, as they are constrained from spending on depth at other positions.

This finally will not be the case for the Chargers in 2020.

This extra cap space will finally give a team that is typically forced to be “cheap” in free agency some wiggle room. Even after accounting for the need to re-sign impending free agents such as Ekeler, Henry, Michael Schofield, and Adrian Phillips, the Chargers will have the space they need to lure in a big fish or two (Joe Thuney or Anthony Castonzo, anyone?).

All of these factors give Chargers fans plenty to hope for in the 2020 season. With some smart spending in free agency and wise draft moves, the Chargers could be positioned to make some noise in the playoffs in 2020.

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