It is no secret that Rivers has been on the decline and is now 31 years old. A large part of his struggles over the past few years have been thanks to a porous offensive line.
Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune San Diego believes that if the new brass is not willing to focus on improving Rivers' protection, they should explore trading him away:
I ran my assessment that it was one or the other – get Rivers sufficient protection or get something for him – by a half-dozen agents and assistant coaches here this week. None disagreed with me. Most vehemently concurred.
Acee is right to criticize the offensive line. According to ProFootballFocus, it was the fourth-worst line in terms of pass-blocking a year ago. Rivers was absolutely abused last season, getting sacked on 50 of his 587 passing attempts.
If the Chargers are not intent on addressing the offensive line, should they jump-start the rebuilding process by trading away its franchise player as Acee suggests?
Moving on from Rivers would make sense if the Chargers want to begin rebuilding. He's turned the ball over 47 times in his past 32 games, his yards-per-attempt has decreased in each of the past four seasons and he is due $41.55 million over the last three years of his deal.
McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt are known as offensive gurus, so it comes down to whether or not they believe Rivers has enough left in the tank after rebuilding the offensive line.
According to Kevin Acee on Twitter, beefing up the line is the priority for now.
Rebuilding the line in front of Rivers starts with free-agent guard Louis Vasquez. He was the No. 13 overall guard in the NFL last season (ProFootballFocus) and is the only quality piece the Chargers had in front of their franchise quarterback.
Vasquez is said to command around $6 million per year (Union-Tribune San Diego), which should be a small price to pay if the Chargers are serious about improving the unit.
After Vasquez, the next step would be finding a replacement for left tackle Jared Gaither, who quit on the team and "milked injuries" last season if the words from anonymous teammates are to be believed (Union-Tribune San Diego).
Next up would be center Nick Hardwick, who the team re-signed before last season. Hardwick is on the decline, and ranked as the No. 31 center in the NFL last year on a list that only charted 36 players at the position (ProFootballFocus).
To round out the list, Jeromey Clary, who started 14 games at right tackle for the Chargers last year, ranked as the No. 38 overall tackle in the NFL (ProFootballFocus). He was passable in those contests, but an upgrade would not hurt at this point.
In other words, the Chargers have a lot of work to do in the trenches.
San Diego is not without options to better protect Rivers and upgrade the line. It holds the No. 11 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and there are a variety of quality offensive linemen that will be in play at San Diego's selection.
As Acee hinted—if the Chargers do not take an offensive lineman in the first round and prove their commitment to Rivers, the franchise may be better served by trading him and his ridiculous contract away.
McCoy sounds as if he is set on building the team around Rivers, which may or may not be a great decision. It is hard to determine how much of Rivers' fall from grace can be attributed to the horrendous offensive line over the past few seasons, but McCoy appears to want to find out.
When the 2013 season kicks off, Rivers will likely still be in a Chargers uniform. If anything, Acee has given McCoy and the Chargers something to think about—Rivers would catch an outstanding haul on the trade market with so many teams in need of even an average option at the position.
Instead of rebuilding around Rivers, the team could get something from him via trade and seriously have an upper hand in rebuilding under a new regime altogether.
It does not sound as if that is going to occur, but crazier things have happened in the unpredictable world of the NFL.
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