Hi kids, are we better today?
As Fearless Leader posted earlier, Peter King had a compelling article about how the Sam Bradford trade went down, and it sheds new light in to how this all came about so quickly. And one of the things that jumped out at me is the environment Rick Spielman found himself in when trying to upgrade the quarterback position.
That's easy to overlook, but it's a critical component to this deal. And it's one I'd like to explore a little bit deeper. Let's have Spielman explain the environment, from the Peter King piece:
I got up on the white board, and we sorted out the scenarios—guys on the street we might want, guys who might get cut, guys on teams that might have enough depth that they'd consider dealing [a quarterback]. Names and options. Then we all got to work watching tape, and I started making calls. To be honest, there was no solution. No good solution.
I made a bunch of calls. I am not gonna mention teams. But there was blood in the water and teams knew it. The price was too high. I didn't want to mortgage our future. Some teams asked for a first-round pick and a core young player. I can understand the pick. But we worked too hard over the past three years to put all that time and energy into drafting and developing a solid core of this team. I was taken aback who they were asking for. Players who'd been in the Pro Bowl. I mean, in the off-season you've got time. There's not blood in the water in the off-season. But now there was.
Two things jump out at me here. For one, and I think we all agreed on this, was that there were no good options available from street free agents and guys that might potentially get cut. Seriously, if Mark Sanchez is the top of the heap here, your heap is a rotting, stinking carcass, it just is.
Secondly, and Spielman mentions no teams here, but he talks about the price of getting a starting caliber QB. I'm just gonna say right now that if the Vikings offered one of Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, or Everson Griffen AND a first round pick for anyone other than a guy at the level of Phillip Rivers, people would have literally lost their minds in blind rage. I would have. And even if it had been Rivers, it still would have been too steep a price.
And let's face it, they weren't getting Rivers (and I'm just using Rivers as an example of a top end QB here; there was nothing that I read or heard about him being a potential target at all). They were probably getting someone along the lines of a highly touted backup, like an AJ McCarron, or as Fearless Leader said, Mike freaking Glennon. And it's perfectly reasonable to think that teams were looking for a King's ransom once Teddy went down, and Spielman found himself in a very heavy seller's market.
So when taken in that context, this wasn't a horrible trade. The Vikings have a legitimate, starting caliber quarterback, something they didn't have from Wednesday to Saturday morning, but they did pay a price. And hey, I'm as amazed as you guys are that teams have received as much compensation as they have over the years for Sam Bradford, but when taken in context, in this case it was not unreasonable compensation.
Still, a first round pick is a first round pick, and they are a valuable commodity. I'm not trying to downplay that, not at all. But a legitimate, starting caliber quarterback is a valuable commodity as well, and if Spielman is to be believed, the trade floor...floor...for a starting QB was a first round pick, and then some. So to get a guy like Bradford for 'just' a first round pick, without giving up a core guy, that's a deal I can live with. Why? Because Minnesota still has eight picks in next years draft, including two picks in the third and fourth rounds. That's not insignificant, as the Vikings have mined talent in those rounds in recent seasons, such as Jerick McKinnon (3rd in 2014) and Danielle Hunter (3rd last year). Yes, there have been questionable to bad picks, I get that. But there is front line talent available as well.
But Rick Spielman has been notorious for trading third round picks as well (did so in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, and last year) to either move up in the second, move down, or accumulate picks. With no first round pick, but two third round picks, I can envision a scenario where he uses those third round picks to make a deal to move up in the second round. So...let's not write off the 2017 draft class just yet.
Let's do this instead. Let's assume the Vikings original draft spot for 2017 is going to be in the mid 20's or later, because they still have a good season and go to the playoffs. With no first round pick, but two third round picks, Spielman pulls off a trade that gets Minnesota back into the top of the second round. Would you be okay with a high and low second round pick as opposed to a low first and low second? Depending on how far the team goes, we're not talking about a big drop off in total pick value between low first and high second round...and the Vikings as currently assembled are not, in any sense of the word, rebuilding. They're done rebuilding, and are on the cusp of a run. So I can, potentially, live with no first round pick, two second round picks, no third round pick, and two fourth round picks.
As to the conditional fourth round pick in 2018...I don't care, its a fourth round pick. And if it moves to a three or a two because the Vikings advance to the NFC Championship or win the Super Bowl, I will care even less than I do now, because NFC Championship or Super Bowl. Hell, I won't even care that they gave up a first round pick if they go that far.
And if you tell me that you will care in that scenario...you're being foolish. Let's look at the Jared Allen trade, for example. On draft day in 2008, the Vikings traded a first and two third round picks to the Chiefs for Allen, who admittedly was a top five DE in the NFL, not a middle of the road one like Bradford is at the QB position. Still, many fans were upset the Vikings paid that much. That is, until Allen started producing on the field. And suddenly, the price the Vikings paid was an afterthought. In 2008 and 2009, the Vikings won the division and they made a hell of a playoff run in 2009, and suddenly, no one cared about the price they paid for Allen.
The Vikings are now in a much better spot to compete in 2016, and if Bradford stays healthy all year and puts up comparable numbers in 2016 as he did last year in Philly, all things being equal with the Vikes from last year, they'll be one of the better teams in the NFL. And they are poised to make a run.
Still, losing a first round pick stings, and had the Vikings properly addressed the backup quarterback situation in the off-season, they would have been in a position of strength to deal when Teddy went down. But they weren't, and instead of having a capable back up ready to go, Spielman had to wade into shark infested waters, and he had a chunk of his backside removed. Had the situation been properly addressed at anytime between the end of the season and the beginning of training camp, there would have been no need to sacrifice a first round pick to get a quarterback the Vikings have confidence in who isn't named Teddy Bridgewater.
That is an organizational failure, and one that cannot be discounted in this whole scenario. But, what's done is done, and, as they say, it is what it is. The Vikings have a starting quarterback, and are once again considered one of the top teams in the NFC.
The time for crying and going 'what if' is over, and things begin anew on Sunday. Skol Vikings, let's get at it.
I'll see you in Nashville. No, literally, I'm going to the game. Look me up, let's get a beer.