When Bridgewater entered the 2014 draft, it was thought that his smaller frame that might not hold up throughout the course of an NFL season. He didn’t start until the fourth game last year, and then sprained his ankle in his first start, so getting a reliable backup that can step in and play if needed will be important for the Vikings, who have had three quarterbacks make starts in each of the last two seasons. It should also be important for them to get a veteran player who can help coach Bridgewater, who is currently 22 years old.
One player the Vikings might want to target is Brian Hoyer. Hoyer spent time with Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner during the 2013 season in Cleveland so he should already have familiarity with the playbook.
The problem with Hoyer is that he will likely want to go somewhere he can compete for a starting job. Minnesota would not be one of those places, as Bridgewater cemented his role as the starting quarterback with his play last season, but Hoyer might not find a place to start anywhere.
After starting only four games in his previous six seasons, Hoyer finally got a starting chance with the Browns in 2014. In 13 starts, he threw for 3,326 yards, but had one more interception (13) than touchdowns (12) and completed only 55.3 percent of his passes for a pedestrian 76.5 passer rating. Hoyer is decent with the deep ball but didn’t handle being pressured in the pocket well. With Johnny Manziel waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen if Hoyer re-signs with Cleveland or finds the fifth team of his career.
Another free-agent quarterback that has ties to Turner and could be a possibility would be Jason Campbell. Like Hoyer, Campbell played for Turner in Cleveland during the 2013 season so he, too, should be familiar with the playbook. He has also been in the NFL for 10 seasons and could provide the Vikings with a veteran presence for Bridgewater to learn from.
Campbell has seemed to accept his role as a backup quarterback after his stints in Washington and Oakland as a starter didn’t work out. For this reason, he could be more willing to come to Minnesota over a player like Hoyer, who still wants to start. Campbell is also likely to draw a salary around $1.5 million, which is what he made last year with the Cincinnati Bengals. That dollar amount is sure to be smaller than what some other free-agent quarterbacks will be asking for.
In 79 career starts, Campbell has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,518 yards, 87 touchdowns and 60 interceptions for an 81.7 passer rating.
Some other veteran quarterbacks with playing experience that won’t draw a large dollar amount that the Vikings could target are Michael Vick, Matt Moore, Matt Flynn, Luke McCown and Dan Orlovsky. Then there is one who would make sense that Vikings fans are already familiar with, Shaun Hill.
Hill has been in the NFL for 13 years, starting 36 games, so it is possible that he could be contemplating retirement soon. But if he decides to play next season he could be an experienced backup quarterback for Bridgewater.
He has played as a starter in the past and found some success doing so, so he should be able to fill in for a couple games if Bridgewater were to suffer an injury. He has also been a backup quarterback for multiple years, so he knows how he needs to prepare and has learned to accept that role. Hill was with Turner in San Francisco in 2006, although he didn’t get in a game that season, Turner’s only year as offensive coordinator of the 49ers.
Last year with the Rams, Hill started eight games, completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,657 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions with a respectable 83.9 passer rating.
No matter who the Vikings decide to bring in, that player will need to understand that his role is as a backup – someone to help in Bridgewater’s development and someone to help teach Bridgewater what it takes to be a professional quarterback. Then, if needed, someone who can come in off the bench for a game or two and lead the team.
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