The name that emerged with experience and a connection to the Vikings was Sam Bradford.
With a vote of confidence from Pat Shurmur, who coached Bradford in St. Louis and Philadelphia and is now the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman acted quickly, trading away a first-round pick in 2018 and another conditional pick in the first half of the 2019 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Bradford on Sept. 3.
At the time, some wondered if Bradford was the worth the price the Vikings paid, but Spielman believes Bradford is just finding his stride after seven seasons in the NFL.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is for him to accomplish what he was able to accomplish with everything that he had to deal with, and the one thing I know about Sam Bradford was that the way he played the second half of [2015 in] Philly, his last year in Philly, and the way he played this year, I think he’s just right now in the prime of his career,” Spielman said.
At this time, less than six months after making that trade, Spielman has no reservations about getting Bradford for the price the Vikings paid.
“I can tell you that looking back on that trade with all the other options that I would do that over in a millisecond to get a Sam Bradford on our football team with the circumstance that we were dealing with because I think that he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player and quarterback in this league,” the general manager said.
Some might argue that Bradford already proved to the Vikings that he is a “pretty good players and quarterback” after having a career year with the Vikings, despite the challenges associated with him joining a team only eight days before the regular-season opener and playing behind an injury-decimated offensive line.
In 15 games played – he sat out the opener while learning Minnesota’s offense – Bradford had eight games with a passer rating over 100, setting a career high and tying for the second-most in team history. He also finished with a career-high 99.3 rating and 3,877 yards passing, despite taking a career-high 37 sacks.
“To ever say that guy was not tough in the some of the shots that he had to take – but a lot of quarterbacks will take shots in this league – for him to get up like that and to get out there and keep firing the ball around the field was incredible,” Spielman said.
One aspect of the trade that intrigued the Vikings was that Bradford had two years remaining on his contract when Minnesota acquired him, an important piece given the uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s timeline for a return from his injury.
While the Vikings likely will explore a contract extension with Bradford, that possibility is still up in the air.
“Everything is in flux right now,” Spielman said when asked about a possible extension for Bradford before the 2017 season, “so I’ll just leave it at that.”