- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- With Philip Rivers coming off of perhaps his best season as a pro, the San Diego Chargers appear settled at quarterback for at least the next two seasons. But there’s still room for improvement.
The good: Rivers transitioned nicely to former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s switch to an up-tempo, short passing game. And the offense should remain relatively similar with quarterbacks coach Frank Reich’s promotion to offensive coordinator, replacing Whisenhunt. Rivers was productive, and benefited from the bruising running style of Ryan Mathews, which created balance in San Diego’s offense. The only starter not under contract for 2014 is guard Chad Rinehart, so the Chargers should have some continuity moving forward into next season.
The bad: Despite San Diego being ranked among the top 10 offenses statistically in the NFL, the Chargers still struggled putting the ball into the end zone. That has to change for this team to develop into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Chargers finished tied for 26th in the league in red zone efficiency (50 percent), and averaged 24.8 points a contest, No. 12 in the NFL.
The money: Rivers has two years left on a deal that pays him a little more than $13.8 million in base salary in 2014, counting nearly $17 million against the salary cap. Even though Rivers just restructured his deal last year, he could be in line for another one in order to give San Diego more cap space to sign free agents. Unlike the Seahawks, who will pay Russell Wilson just $662,434 in base salary in 2014, freeing them up to sign talented players across the rest of the roster, the Chargers have to work around the salary of a franchise quarterback. Rivers campaigned for the return of Whitehurst, an unrestricted free agent, during the season. Maintaining continuity in the quarterback room is important, and Rivers trusts Whitehurst as a sounding board in the film room and in games. The Chargers have to decide how much having Whitehurst on the team is worth, and if Sorensen is ready to assume a role as the No. 2 quarterback. San Diego needs a legitimate signal-caller who can lead this team in case the durable Rivers goes down due to injury.
Draft priority: Necessary. Seahawks general manager John Schneider believes you consider drafting a quarterback every year, and you can never have too much talent at the position. I tend to agree with that philosophy. You can always use a talented backup as a trade chip, much like San Diego accomplished by trading Whitehurst to the Seahawks in the 2010 offseason. The Chargers could consider drafting a more mobile quarterback that offers a different skill set than someone already on the roster like Clemson’s Tahj Boyd.
SAN DIEGO -- With Philip Rivers coming off of perhaps his best season as a pro, the San Diego Chargers appear settled at quarterback for at least the next two seasons.