Sunday slant: The bargain of Bridgewater

Two-Minute Teddy is a Bridgewater Bargain for now, but his performance in coming years could portend a big payday down to the road. Consider it the price for anticipated success.

Two-Minute Teddy. Teddy Two-Gloves. Touchdown Teddy.

Pick whichever nickname you like for the Minnesota Vikings’ up-and-coming Teddy Bridgewater, but know this: If Bridgewater continues to ascend over the next two years, he will earn the money moniker among Vikings players.

This might be the easiest question ever posed: What’s the most important position in the NFL? The quarterback, of course. It’s too easy an answer, but it becomes a perplexing proposition of money when the payday comes due.

While quarterback is the most important position among the 22 starters, Bridgewater is No. 22 in average money per year on the Vikings’ roster. Fortunately for fans, their angst in that regard can wait. Teams can’t sign a contract extension with recent draft picks until they have completed their third NFL season.

Bridgewater has two more years to prove himself before his contract gets to that point, but if he continues to impress like he did in 2014 when he was the third-best rookie quarterback in NFL history for completion percentage, his payday will come.

Until then, he is currently 22nd in pay on the Vikings roster, averaging $1.7 million per season with a 2015 salary-cap number of only $1.56 million as the 32nd pick in last year’s draft.

To put that in perspective, his annual average is 43rd in the NFL among quarterbacks, meaning there are about a dozen backups making more than he is. Ahead of him are not only his veteran backup, Shaun Hill, at $3.25 million per season, but his former veteran backup, Matt Cassel, at $5.25. Don’t forget about the Vikings’ last first-round draft pick at quarterback before Bridgewater, Christian Ponder, at $2.25 million with the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, that’s all relative chump change in the world of accomplished NFL quarterbacks, a universe where Aaron Rodgers leads the way while averaging $22 million per season as one of six quarterbacks pocketing more than $20 million a season while trying to stay alive in the pocket.

The other NFC North teams are doling out big dollars for the quarterbacks to which they have hitched their sometimes wobbly wagons. Jay Cutler is averaging $18.1 million on his contract and Matthew Stafford is getting an average of $17.67 million on his.

For now, the Vikings are in an ideal situation. They have what appears to be a quality young passer that costs them a pittance in NFL parlance. That’s part of the reason they have a generally well-rounded roster surrounding Bridgewater on offense and a defense that appears to be plugging the holes quickly and still fall comfortably at 16th in NFL salary-cap space with $9.57 million. They are neither overflowing with room like the league-leading Jacksonville Jaguars with $34.8 million nor struggling to fit it all together like the Kansas City Chiefs with less than a half mil in cap space and a league-leading sacker in Justin Houston looking for an extended payday.

When Bridgewater’s representatives can start seeking an extension after the 2016 season, like Russell Wilson’s agent is doing now, the Vikings are currently slated to have expiring contracts for Phil Loadholt, Matt Kalil (if they stick with exercising his fifth-year option for 2016 at $11.1 million), Captain Munnerlyn, Hill, along with Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson (the last three all have fifth-year options that could be exercised for 2017).

By then, however, it’s anybody’s guess if Adrian Peterson’s 2017 cap number of $18 million will still be on the books or in an altered form.

It’s all speculation how things will proceed between now and after the 2016 season, but that’s what the NFL onlookers do – speculate and look ahead at what’s next. In Minnesota, it’s more about fretting with a doomsday nervousness.

For now and at least the next two seasons, it’s Teddy Time on the cheap. It’s an era to enjoy and soak in the melding of what appears to be a formidable roster with high-end coaches putting those players in place.

Oh, and, don’t forget that the Vikings can also exercise the fifth-year option on Bridgewater’s contract after the 2016 season, which would put him under contract through 2018. And they won’t have to renegotiate after three years, either, but if Bridgewater lives up to his early promise, it would be the right move if cap space at the time allows.

So go ahead, enjoy the rest of you Independence Day weekend without worry … unless, of course, you must find something Vikings-related to stress over to end your relaxation.

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