In a move that surprised absolutely no one, the Colts signed 38-year-old QB Philip Rivers to a one-year deal worth up to $25M. The Rivers to Indianapolis connection was obvious. Colts HC Frank Reich was Rivers’ QB coach/OC from 2013-15 on a Chargers staff that also included Indy’s current OC, Nick Sirianni.
Rivers’ impact on the Colts is fairly straight-forward.
Especially with T Anthony Castonzo back (signed a 2-year, $33M deal), the Colts offensive line offers a significant upgrade over the Chargers. After ranking dead last in sack rate allowed (10%) in 2017, the Colts offensive line has given up the 6th- and 2nd-lowest sack rate over the last two seasons, respectively.
Not only will Rivers get to play behind the most talented offensive line of his career, but Reich/Sirriani’s balanced offensive attack will help minimize Rivers’ deficiencies. Getting to play 10 guaranteed dome games (8 in Indy, 2 in Houston) this coming season is a nice added bonus, too.
While Rivers clearly isn’t the Colts QB of the future and isn’t as talented as he once was, he is a pretty significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Rivers was still very effective on intermediate throws in 2019, ranking 10th-of-28 QBs in adjusted completion percentage (64.1%) on throws traveling 10-19 yards downfield. For perspective, Brissett was one of the NFL’s least accurate passers on intermediate throws, ranking 26th-of-28 in adjusted completions (51.5%) on passes of 10-19 yards.
The Colts certainly need to go after some receiver depth in the NFL Draft -- Parris Campbell is talented but is still a question-mark and Zach Pascal at WR2 won’t cut it -- but Rivers landing in Indy is likely a slight upgrade for T.Y. Hilton. And, with Eric Ebron now in Pittsburgh, the Colts are seemingly rolling into 2020 with Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox at tight end.
We’d need Andrew Luck to un-retire before Hilton becomes a locked-in fantasy WR1 again, mainly because of the connection that the former duo had on deep passes. For what it’s worth, Rivers really struggled throwing deep as only Kyle Allen and Jared Goff had a lower QB Rating than Rivers on throws 20 or more yards downfield last season. Still, even with an inconsistent Brissett at the controls in 2019, Hilton was fantasy’s WR23 in PPR points before a mid-season calf injury ruined his campaign.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Rivers’ addition helps get Marlon Mack more involved as a receiver. Obviously, it goes without saying that Mack is not as nearly as talented or as versatile of a receiver as Austin Ekeler, but Rivers did tend to check down often with the Chargers. Not only did Rivers throw to his running backs more often than any quarterback in the league last year (31.5%), Chargers backs have finished 1st, 6th, and 11th in receptions over the previous three seasons. Even though Mack has yet to be featured as a receiver in the NFL, he looked like a natural pass catcher coming out of college at USF.
It’s likely that Nyheim Hines just catches a few more balls, though. Hines routinely replaced Mack in obvious passing situations last year, out-snapping Mack 237 to 190 on passing downs. The Colts could also try to upgrade on Hines as the passing-down specialist in the NFL Draft.