Philip Rivers doesn't see Chargers drafting a QB as a negative

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- With 14 years in the NFL, Philip Rivers has witnessed the turnstile of players coming in and out the door with the Los Angeles Chargers. So Rivers, 36, understands that even though he hasn't missed a start in more than a decade, at some point the Chargers have to begin the search for his eventual replacement.

The Chargers have started that process. They signed Geno Smith, 27, to a one-year deal, to compete with Cardale Jones, 25, for the backup job. Last year's backup, Kellen Clemens, 34, did not return.

The Chargers have been active during the workup to the draft in evaluating quarterbacks. Coach Anthony Lynn got an up-close look at two of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft -- USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen -- at their pro days.

Representatives from the Chargers have also met with Louisville's Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph. The Chargers have not drafted a quarterback since selecting Brad Sorensen during the seventh round in 2013.

"I look around at places, some guys that have had far more success than I have had, and they're drafting quarterbacks," Rivers said. "So it's inevitable. It's going to happen at some point. It's happened at other places, we all know where they are. And those guys are either still sitting, or they've been traded. So who knows?

"At some point the room is going to get younger. It got somewhat younger when you add Cardale last year and got somewhat younger again when you add Geno. You know at some point we are going to draft a guy, and I don't see that as any negative."

Rivers said he hopes to continue to play at a high level for a few more years. The NC State product had one of his best seasons as a pro in 2017. He was sacked a league-low 18 times, finished second in the NFL with 4,515 passing yards and connected on 28 touchdowns, earning his seventh Pro Bowl invitation.

"Philip, he's still playing like a young man," Lynn said. "This is going to be his squad. If we bring in another quarterback, it's definitely a guy we feel like can sit for a couple of years and play behind Philip and learn, and maybe be the future. I have a lot of confidence in Cardale Jones. I have a lot of confidence in Geno Smith. I wouldn't look past those two right now."

Rivers threw just 10 interceptions last season, cutting down on turnovers after leading the league in interceptions two years ago with 21. Curbing turnovers was a point of emphasis heading into the 2017 season.

The Chargers started offseason work on Monday, and Rivers said he feels good and is focused on getting better at the little things as he looks forward to the 2018 campaign.

"I can't remember a January where I really felt like I could go a whole other season," Rivers said. "I had nothing [wrong]. Usually, there's something that's been nagging you -- nothing on the injury report or nothing you're really in treatment for -- it's really a nagging deal that you can't wait to heal up. I had nothing to complain about.

"Really, the last handful of years I focus more on my core, leg strength and more stamina to be strong in the fourth quarter -- strong with guys hanging all over you in those moments late in games where you can push through, make those throws and make plays your team needs you to make."