With questions looming over the state of the Minnesota Vikings quarterback situation, the question has been posed as to whether the Vikings need to make the tough decision and let Teddy Bridgewater’s contract expire – whether at the end of this season or, if it gets tolled due to CBA language through the 2018 season – and sign Sam Bradford to a long-term deal that makes him the permanent franchise quarterback moving forward.
Bradford came to the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, the last year that the rookie salary cap was inflated to the point where rookies were often the highest paid players on their team without ever playing a down.
Bradford set a record as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, when he signed a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. In his first three years with the Rams, Bradford started all 16 games twice – the only times in his seven-year career that he started all 16 games.
Given the price the Rams were paying Bradford, a situation that caused change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that greatly reduced the contracts rookies were paid, by the time he got four years into the contract and the heavy lifting and guaranteed portion of the deal had been completed, he was traded to the Eagles for QB Nick Foles and an exchange of draft picks.
At the time, the Rams were viewed as getting the better of the deal, getting out from under the remainder of Bradford’s contract and writing off the decision to draft him as an expensive mistake. The Eagles saw the talent in Bradford because the Rams were a far cry from the Greatest Show on Turf Rams with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The Rams of the early part of this decade were pedestrian at best. When Bradford went to Philadelphia, he got a new lease on life and a more proactive offense to suit his skills.
In his only season as the Eagles starter, he played in 14 games and set career highs for passing yards (3,725), completion percentage (65.0) and his 19 touchdowns were the second highest total of his career, which speaks to the lack of firepower the Rams had during his tenure.
The only reason the Vikings had the chance to acquire Bradford was because in the 2016 draft, Philadelphia had mortgaged their draft future to move up to the No. 2 pick to draft Carson Wentz. They didn’t draft Wentz in order to be a backup for very long and the trade of Bradford, with two years remaining on a newly signed contract, was expendable when the Vikings suddenly had a short-term (and possibly long-term) need at quarterback with the Bridgewater injury.
In his 15 games with the Vikings – Bradford didn’t start until Week 2 of the season – he had the finest season of his career. He hit the ground running because he knew Pat Shurmur’s offense and was able to incorporate more of that offense when Shurmur took over at offensive coordinator in early November, seven games into the season.
Bradford produced the most efficient season of his career. He set a franchise record for completion percentage (71.6 percent), his 3,877 passing yards were a career best, his 20 touchdowns were one short of his career high, his five interceptions were by far the best in his career on a per-pass basis and his passer rating of 99.3 was 8.4 rating points higher than any season of his career.
Coming to Minnesota under less-than-ideal circumstances, Bradford earned every dollar he was paid. He took a beating with the revolving door on offensive line and held up strong.
“We threw the ball a lot more times than we did the year before and were sacked the same number of times we were the year before. So we were almost totally, 100 percent one-dimensional, which made it extra tough for the quarterback because teams were able to load up on us, rush the quarterback and play more coverage,” head coach Mike Zimmer said at the owners meetings. “I thought he did great. He hung in there, he got rocked and showed his toughness. He’s an extremely accurate thrower.”
The question seems to be whether the Vikings have the confidence in Bradford to invest in him long-term at a time they can get the best out of him – he turns 30 in November and could be signed to the a three- or four-year extension that would give the team some long-term stability at the quarterback position (if there is such a thing).
Or the Vikings could swallow hard and pay him Kirk Cousins money under the franchise tag next year.
Or they can just let his contract run out and start new (again) in 2018.
Will we hear something prior to the start of training camp that the Vikings have reached a contract extension with Bradford? It would be a loud statement as to the direction of the offense to the end of the decade. But, is it going to be forthcoming? So far, mum is the word.
The length of time it will take to make that determination will quietly speak for the organization … and get louder the longer the silence continues.