According to a few of ESPN’s NFL Experts (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts signing of veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers is the league’s offseason addition that will make the biggest impact (as well as a mention of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner):
Which offseason addition will make the biggest impact in 2020?
Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Philip Rivers, QB, Indianapolis Colts. Tom Brady is the obvious choice, but the Colts’ signing of Rivers — as well as the trade for DeForest Buckner — vaults them into contender status. Interceptions were a problem last season, but Rivers was still effective and will have the benefit of an elite offensive line in Indianapolis.
Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: Rivers. He and Frank Reich collaborated for 13,000-plus yards and 92 touchdowns in San Diego from 2013 to 2015. Now, they reunite in Indy with a strong roster around them. Rivers is eager to rebound from a subpar 2019 with the Chargers. On a one-year deal, expect fireworks from the 38-year-old.
Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Rivers. The Colts finished with a bottom-10 passing offense last season, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA; if Rivers can bounce back (I think he can), then they’ll get a bigger bump than the Bucs will by going from Winston to Brady.
Playing behind a poor pass blocking Chargers offensive line, the 38 year old quarterback completed 390 of 591 passes (66.0%) for 4,615 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and a passer rating of 88.5 in all 16 starts this past season.
The Colts are hoping that by being reunited with his former offensive coordinator Frank Reich and passing behind a strong Indianapolis offensive line, that Rivers can return to his 2018 form—where he threw for 32 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions.
Certainly helping his cause is that the Colts just drafted a big bodied wideout Michael Pittman Jr.—who’s drawn Vincent Jackson comparisons, as a tall, vertical downfield target.
There’s also always the dangerous deep threat, T.Y. Hilton, returning as a 4x Pro Bowler, as well as dynamic receiving pieces such as scatback Nyheim Hines and blazing fast slot wideout Parris Campbell. Not to mention, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle and versatile veteran Trey Burton also help round out the Colts receiving corps.
Understanding that the 18-year veteran can’t carry an offense quite like he did in his prime, the Colts also drafted a top rookie running back, Jonathan Taylor, to pair with last year’s 1,000 yard rusher, Marlon Mack, to form a power running game that should be the Colts ‘bread and butter’ offensively—and for Rivers to heavily lean upon (which with a loaded box, will better set up play-action and calculated shots downfield).
With a strong supporting cast, Rivers should be able to do what last year’s starter, Jacoby Brissett, largely couldn’t down the stretch.
He’ll throw the ball downfield, take chances, anticipate open reads, and work all levels of the field—with an improvement in overall accuracy.
Rivers may commit more turnovers than his risk adverse predecessor, but he’ll also consistently better move the sticks and generate big plays—which will lead to the Colts ultimately scoring more points.
One could make the case that last year, the Colts were only a starting quarterback and kicker upgrade from making some serious noise in the AFC—and this year’s squad should be much improved with the Rivers, Buckner, and top offensive rookie additions.