"He thinks that Tom is going to come to the Chargers," Merriman tells TMZ Sports.
Merriman, though, says he doesn't see it going down that way -- the Chargers legend jokingly says he HATES Tom -- and tells us the right fit to replace Philip is actually Cam himself!!!
"Tom's a great quarterback, he's just not a great quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers," Merriman says ... "I think if you're going to move from a different direction from Phillip, you go in and get somebody that could do a little bit more -- a little more athletic."
Merriman added, "I just brought up one name, I think Cam Newton is a -- could be a really good choice. Even for the short term. And, you can still go draft."
But, the ex-Bolts superstar doesn't see either Brady or Cam ultimately coming to the Chargers ... telling us he doesn't see the Panthers letting Newton go.
As for his old teammate, Rivers ... Merriman tells us he's sure the guy will land on his feet somewhere -- saying he knows of at least NINE teams that could use Rivers as their starter in 2020.