On Friday, Vikings beat reporter Ben Goessling of ESPN surmised that Sam Bradford’s agent, flush with the news of Derek Carr’s mega-extension, has seen the writing on the wall regarding quarterback contracts in the NFL:
“..Bradford's agent Tom Condon will undoubtedly be looking for a deal that pushes the quarterback's average figure north of $20 million and includes at least $40-$50 million in guaranteed money.”
That’s a reasonable assumption to make, and assuming the accuracy of the numbers, which I do, the Vikings have a couple options available to them.
Sign an extension now: They can sign Bradford to an extension right now, before training camp. The advantage in that is the numbers of the deal. I think it’s fair to assume that the dollars Goessling threw out are the floor, based on the assumption Bradford has a season as good as or better than last year. Bradford, who will be 30 in November, would probably get a four or five year deal, and it would take the quarterback situation essentially off the table for the Vikings, at a price that won’t blow up the salary cap in out years. It also gives the Vikings solid numbers to work with to project salary available for next year’s free agency and draft, and won’t leave the front office in limbo for what would amount to all or part of an entire season.
Let the season play out: This can go two ways. Let’s say that Sleeves plays lights out the whole season, the Vikings win the division, and make a deep playoff run. Sam Bradford will then command a contract worth more than the Carr extension, possibly $28-30 million a season, with $80 million guaranteed...and these are just estimates by yours truly. The Vikings would be pressured to get a deal done with Bradford based on his and the team’s performance, and to cut ties with Teddy Bridgewater, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2017. But at that number, they could pass on Bradford and re-sign Bridgewater at a substantially reduced price than Bradford would command, but that would be perceived as a huge risk, especially if the Vikes end the season as one of the top teams in the NFL.
The other side of that coin is that Bradford plays the whole season, but is average, and the Vikings are an average team. And by average, I mean a one and done road wildcard team that backs in to the playoffs in true Vikings tradition, or 8-8 or worse while missing the playoffs. If Bridgewater doesn’t play because of his knee, they can then either cut ties with Bradford, bring Bradford back on a shorter deal that is about what it is now ($17.5 mil/yr), or cut ties with him and re-sign Bridgewater, if he’s 100% healed and ready to play. In that missing the playoffs scenario, it would be a lot easier to move on from Bradford and give the keys back to Bridgewater.
Whither Bridgewater? In some respects, Bridgewater is the wildcard in all of this, though. If Teddy’s knee doesn’t heal, then Bradford is the only realistic option, and the Vikings will re-sign Bradford. But it seems that based on rehab reports from the team and other players, Bridgewater’s rehab is progressing well and he will, at some point in 2017, be cleared to play. So let’s try and factor in how Teddy plays in to all of this.
Bridgewater replaces Bradford: Let’s say, at some point in 2017, Bridgewater comes in and replaces Bradford, either due to ineffectiveness or injury (which if anyone hopes for an injury on anyone, you’re a terrible person). If Bridgewater plays well, I can see a scenario where Bridgewater gets a big extension, and the Vikings cut ties with Bradford. I don’t see those numbers being Carr-line, but $18 mil/yr for Bridgewater isn’t unreasonable, either
Bridgewater and Bradford both play, both are healthy at the end of the season: I honestly have no idea what happens in this situation, as there are just too many unanswered questions. Did either or both play well? What was the team record? Did they go to the playoffs, and which QB played?
If there’s anything that might give Bridgewater an advantage here, it’s youth. Teddy will only be 25 at the end of the season, and when you look at some key QB career stats, they’re very similar to Bradford. TD % is 3.3 to 3.4, advantage Sam. Int %? Bradford’s is 2.0, Bridgewater is 2.5. Yards per attempt is 6.8 for Bridgewater, 6.4 for Sam. Teddy’s career completion percentage is 64.9%, Sam’s is 62.3.
I’m not trying to ignite another Sam v. Teddy debate here, I’m just pointing out that statistically, there can be a case made for Bridgewater without any 2017 stats thrown in yet, and when you add in his youth compared to Sam, it might be enough to tip the scales if everything else is equal.
But because it’s the Vikings, it probably won’t be, and this looming decision will be both expensive and painful.