Hi kids, how are we?
When the Vikings 2016 season was permanently altered on Tuesday afternoon, the general consensus was that the Vikings needed to do something...darn near anything...to improve the quarterback position. And admittedly, the general consensus was right. From about Wednesday until early Saturday morning, though, the thought was that the QB move wasn't going to be a big one, but it something more along these lines:
The Vikings were going to start the season with Shaun Hill, let Taylor Heinicke get healthy and re-evaluate the two a few games in, get someone out of the T.J. Maxx Quarterback Clearance Bin to replace rookie UDFA Joel Stave, and hope things weren't as bleak as they looked. And slowly, as the shock of the Teddy Bridgewater injury subsided, most fans thought that was about the only realistic plan the Vikings had, and looked to the strong defense and running game to talk themselves into a shot at a wildcard spot. The thought of getting anything other than 'Just A Guy' was kind of an unrealistic notion, but 'Just A Guy' was better for depth than 'Just That Joel Stave Guy', so in that respect the move made sense.
But when you looked at the rest of this team, it's ready to make a run. They have a top five defense, a top 5 running game, good special teams...they just needed a little bit more than 'Just A Guy' if their hopes of a deep playoff run were to be kept alive.
And so, GM Rick Spielman traded for a starter, Sam Bradford. And in so doing, flipped the script and the consensus on its ear. Let's see what it means, shall we?
1) The Vikings needed a QB. Well, duh. But they needed a 'shot in the arm' quarterback for a couple reasons. For one...and this is meant as no disrespect towards Shaun Hill...but the front office needed to send a message to an emotionally damaged team that they weren't throwing in the towel, and the lofty goals they have set for themselves can still be attained.
And Rick Spielman has to have, at a minimum, a contingency plan moving forward. Look, everyone wants Teddy to get healthy and be back next year...but he suffered a significant injury. One of the reactions I saw that irritated me the most was that the trade signals the Vikings know Teddy is going to be out two years, or his career is in deep jeopardy, if not over.
Everyone stop with that. No one knows how bad it is. Until he has his surgery, there's no way to know. But, Spielman cannot just sit and do nothing and wait to see what happens with Teddy and rehab, because Hill/Heinicke/TJ Maxx guy is not a good long term plan. It's a bad short term plan, and this takes lemons...grown largely by Rick Spielman...and turns it into a somewhat palatable lemonade.
Why is this his fault? Because Spielman screwed up by not addressing the backup QB situation in the off-season, and rolled the dice on Teddy not getting hurt. When that blew up in his face, he needed to fix it, and he did. Bradford does two things:
A. He gives the Vikings a competitive bridge to 2017. A guy that gives you a legitimate chance to win every week this year, and once Teddy comes back next year, a high quality backup that can come in and play if needed.
B. He's also insurance. With the Bradford trade, the Vikings are no longer in a hurry to rush Teddy back and play him before he might be ready, or if his rehab does suffer a setback. With the combination of his youth and the training staff of Eric Sugarman, I'm not going to bet against Bridgewater being ready in week one of 2017. But, if he needs to sit, or the Vikings feel they need to put him on the PUP or IR-eligible to return to begin the season, they now have that luxury to do so. Bradford isn't going to cost the Vikings all that much, and he's under contract for two years. He'll cost the Vikings $7 million this year, $13 million next year, but no dead money.
2) Okay...let's talk draft picks. This is what caused most fans to not like the trade, a first round pick in 2017, and a fourth round pick in 2018. That 2018 pick becomes a third round pick if the Vikings go to the NFC Championship, it becomes a 2nd round pick if they win the Super Bowl. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not happy trading a first round pick. But, let's take a look at some of the names that were being thrown around as possible additions:
Zach Mettenberger (before he signed with the Steelers)
None of those guys...none...are NFL caliber starters. Bradford is the only one of these guys that has a pulse and fogs a mirror. And before you laugh, consider: Bradford has never been in as good a situation as the one he finds himself now in with the Vikings. He has a top five defense, a top five running game, good receivers, and a skillset that fits the offense the Vikings have installed, not that college chuck and duck system Chip Kelly ran in Philly. Rick Spielman gives up draft picks like Willie Wonka gives out golden tickets, so the thought process is 'look, this is a Super Bowl team, and Bradford is a guy that will help us get there.' There's no way the Vikings do this deal if they're just looking for a caretaker for a year, tread water at 8-8, and then make their run when Teddy gets back. No, the run starts this year, with this team. The pieces were in place, and then Teddy got hurt. Now, they hope Bradford is the newest final piece.
Also, in 2015, Bradford threw for more yards and more TD's than Teddy, and had a higher PFF rating. All he needs to do is lower his turnovers a bit, and I think the Vikings are going to be fine at the quarterback position. I don't know that you could say that with any sense of assurance with that TJ Maxx list above, or the guys that are currently on the Vikings roster.
3) The Vikings didn't 'mortgage the future'. If the Vikings are right and they do make a run, that first round pick is in the high 20's...or 32, AMIRITE? But all that aside, the Vikings still have eight picks in the 2017 draft--a second, two thirds, two fourths, and a single pick each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh round.
I don't like giving up a first round pick, and I get why fans dislike it but I can live with it because the Vikings are not rebuilding, and they didn't trade Bradford to become 'The Man'. They traded for him to complete the puzzle to make a run this year, while still having enough ammo to draft a full class next year. Or, use some of those extra picks to move back in to the first round to get a potential impact player if they want to. Hey, I'm as stunned as anyone that Sam Bradford has been paid as much as he has, and been traded for as much as he's been traded for in his career, but Minnesota did not throw the long term plans of this team down the toilet with this trade. They still need answers at safety and on the offensive line, but the core group of players on this team is one of the youngest in the NFL.
Of course, they can't piss away any of next year's picks on the next Willie Beavers, either.
So, all in all, let's walk back from the ledge. Vikings fans wanted Rick Spielman to make a move, he did, and it's about the best move he could have possibly made under the circumstances. It cost a lot, but it also gained a lot of what was lost on Tuesday afternoon. The Vikings will once again have a fully functioning offense, and the deep run we thought the Vikings were capable of is still possible.