We're a little bit behind when it comes to taking a look at the Minnesota Vikings' roster as we head into the free agency and draft season, but we're going to start to rectify that here today. We'll go down the roster and take a look at what the Vikings currently have at each position, as well as what they could possibly do to improve things during this offseason.
What better place to start, then, than at the quarterback position?
Starter: Teddy Bridgewater
Going into the 2015 NFL season, Bridgewater was expected by many to make a pretty significant leap from his strong 2014 finish. The logic was that the addition/return of Adrian Peterson was going to open things up for him and the rest of the offense, and the addition of a deep threat like Mike Wallace would give him the opportunity for more big plays. For numerous reasons, those things didn't happen, but that doesn't mean that Bridgewater regressed in 2015. More to the point, there is still plenty of room for growth for him in 2016, depending on what else the Vikings do with the roster.
After two seasons, despite what you might hear from some, Bridgewater has done pretty well for himself in his first two NFL seasons.
Sure, Bridgewater isn't putting up 30 passing touchdowns a season. But, if you'll notice, his yards/attempt figure is higher than that of his contemporaries from the 2014 draft class. He's also taken better care of the football than they have and, oh by the way, he's lapping the field in the marginally important "win" category. He's done this despite being almost constantly under siege. He faced the most pressure of any quarterback in the NFL in 2015 after being in the top three in that category as a rookie. Despite that, he's kept his cool and hasn't made a ton of dumb, drive killing mistakes. (As long as he stops trying to throw the ball left-handed, that is.)
If the Vikings make fixing the offensive line a priority this offseason. . .and, you know, they really should. . .it would go a long way towards helping Bridgewater make the sort of leap in 2016 that many were expecting from him in 2015.
Backup: Shaun Hill
Shaun Hill has been in the National Football League for a long time. How long? The year Shaun Hill entered the league, the Vikings used their first round draft choice on a spry, young left tackle by the name of Bryant McKinnie. Hill actually spent his first four seasons with the Vikings before bouncing around the league a bit as a backup (and part-time starter, in some places). At age 36, he's the oldest player the Vikings currently have under contract. . .the only player on the roster that's older, cornerback Terence Newman, is a pending free agent.
Hill didn't get the opportunity to play much last year. His only significant time came in the overtime victory over the St. Louis Rams after Bridgewater was taken out by a cheap shot. To say that the offense didn't function terribly well under him would be an understatement. I know, limited sample size and all, but I'm not sure how things would go if Hill had to run the offense for the Vikings for an extended period of time.
Hill is set to make $3.25 million next season to serve as Bridgewater's backup/mentor. We'll take a look at some of the free agent options at quarterback down the road, but there's a small chance that the Vikings could move on if they can find a backup that's more to the liking of the coaching staff.
Project: Taylor Heinicke
Heinicke is a guy that the Vikings clearly think has a future in the NFL. He played third-string snaps for the Vikings during the preseason, and when it came time to set the final rosters, the Vikings didn't want to take the risk of exposing him and potentially losing him to another team, so they kept him on the 53 all season.
Even with a year of seasoning on his resume, I don't know if Heinicke could be counted on to be Bridgewater's primary backup at this point. I definitely think the Vikings are keeping him around and will see if he can develop into that at some point. However, it seems pretty likely that the team is going to keep another quarterback to keep on the depth chart between Bridgewater and Heinicke for at least one more season.
Obviously, this position is all about Teddy Bridgewater for the foreseeable future. Hopefully we will continue to see him grow and improve in the future and finally give this team the long-term quarterback they've needed for so long. As far as the depth chart at the position, there's a slight chance for some change, but it wouldn't be at all surprising to see these same three quarterbacks in the same spots on the depth chart when the Vikings hit Training Camp in July.