The free agency period of the NFL off-season will officially be underway in mere hours, and chaos has already taken over with surprise signings, cuts, and trades on the daily. After the Minnesota Vikings gave Kirk Cousins a deal worth $84 million — fully guaranteed — for three years, the departures of Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Teddy Bridgewater seemed imminent. The former first overall pick is headed back to the division that once hosted him, as Bradford signed a lucrative deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Keenum, once the savior of the Vikings, is headed to Denver as they attempt to fix their quarterback situation. This leaves Teddy Bridgewater, the former Louisville star, former first-round draft pick, and former division winner unaccounted for.
Reports have cited the Jets as the front-runner for “Teddy Two Gloves”, and though it is not official, it seems very likely that Bridgewater trades in his purple jersey for a green one. If signed, the contract would look similar to that of his former Vikings teammates. Gang Green would look to lock up Bridgewater for a year, in a deal ranging from 15-20 million dollars per year. Of course, that is just speculation, but Teddy has all the leverage he needs outside of guaranteed money. If he were to sign with the Jets, the questions remain: When will he start? How will he play?
To answer this, pieces of the puzzle must be found from both his college and professional film in order to put everything together. As a Louisville Cardinal, Bridgewater received a great deal of hype, and was even speculated to be the first overall pick. After no-showing at the combine and undergoing a rough Pro Day, he fell to the end of the first round, where the Vikings selected who they thought was their franchise quarterback.
These thoughts unequivocally sprout from his college days, where he compiled a career 68.4% completion percentage, 9,817 passing yards, and a 3:1 touchdown-interception ratio. There were certainly question marks though. Bridgewater had relatively inconsistent footwork and his arm strength was constantly questioned, especially after he clocked in at 48 mph. One common misconception is the comparison to Lamar Jackson.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 14, 2018
Another Louisville product, they are completely different players. Lamar is much more mobile, is more aggressive, and has a much better arm, but Bridgewater is far more accurate and poised in the pocket. As for what I thought of Bridgewater as a prospect, I had him as my second-ranked passer in the class, behind Blake Bortles (oops). I have first-round grades on both Jackson and Bridgewater, though Lamar has the higher ceiling. Moreover, what his college film shows is his ability to navigate the pocket and remain excitingly accurate under pressure, but struggle with anticipatory reads.
His accuracy in and out of the pocket is what got him drafted so high, and when you factor in his excellent pocket presence and poise, it is easy to see why the Vikings put their faith in him. Starting twelve games in his rookie year and going 6-6, Bridgewater gave Vikings fans a taste of what was to come. He improved on some of his flaws from college, refining his mechanics and using his mobility to his advantage more often. Bridgewater’s accuracy stayed borderline elite, though the velocity concerns remained. Posting a 64.4% completion percentage, 2,919 yards, a 14:12 touchdown-interception ratio, Bridgewater hushed some of his critics and showed us the potential was there. However, his once perceived as sky-high upside seemed to leave once Bridgewater suited up in an NFL uniform.
It was clear that Bridgewater was going to limit offensive turnovers, but in some ways would limit the offense. Taking on a “game-manager” persona, he stuck to mostly short passes and was efficient in doing so. His ability to stretch the field was tested, and the results were not positive. Interceptions came about from contested throws into double coverage — thrown because he expected the target to be open — and throws with windows that closed too quickly for Bridgewater’s arm talent. Though he was far from perfect during his rookie campaign, he gave us a glimpse into the future— an accurate, poised passer who, though not explosive, could move around. A passer that may not put up big numbers, but will keep you in a game and will never throw you out of one. Bridgewater’s sophomore season was marked by noticeable improvements.
One reason for this could be the return of future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. The former 2,000-yard rusher had yet another great year, aiding the young passer’s development with a consistent run game. The offensive line in front of Bridgewater was atrocious, but it failed to hinder Bridgewater’s strengths. The Vikings went 11-5, winning a crucial NFC North title, and competed in the playoffs until Blair Walsh… ended that. Bridgewater proved he can play some winning football and perform when his team needed him most. His numbers also improved with a 65.3% completion percentage, 3,231 yards, and a 14:9 touchdown-interception ratio. The low touchdown numbers may be concerning, but he truly outperformed his stats, and the lack of scores can be attributed to Adrian Peterson’s mandatory touches.
Bridgewater consistently led the Vikings downfield with his incredible touch and precision, in addition to the threat he poses to a defense. While he won’t be running past defenders for touchdowns, he can move around in and out of the pocket and deliver strikes. Unfortunately, Vikings faithful never got to experience much more of “Teddy Two Gloves”. As August 2016 ended, so did Bridgewater’s season. During practice, he dropped back and collapsed to the ground, spiraling the Vikings into shock, panic, and desperation. The quick-witted doctors saved his leg and his career. He ended up tearing his ACL, dislocating his knee, and enduring other structural damage in his left leg.
Obviously, this was quite the severe injury, and it sidelined him for the better part of two years. This will forever leave questions regarding his durability, mobility, confidence. Then there’s the issue of guaranteed money. What this means for the Jets — or other potential suitors — is that there is a very necessary need for a skilled backup quarterback, and maybe even a rookie to step up just in case. Unless Bridgewater proves his leg is not an issue and that he and his narrow frame can once again endure the beating of a long NFL season, insurance policies should be implemented. The injury has a definite chance of limiting what he can create. While it won’t render him useless, it will significantly hurt his value.
Jets are re-signing QB Josh McCown. — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2018
According to reports, the Jets have agreed to terms with Teddy Bridgewater for a one year deal. This comes after the news broke that Josh McCown, the league’s perpetual plan B, inked a one year, $10 million deal with the team. Though two veterans join Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, a first-round quarterback is not out of the question. The Jets are very much still in the market for a passer, or even to trade up for one, due to the question marks surrounding Bridgewater. Going into the 2018 season, there will almost certainly be a quarterback controversy between Teddy, McCown, and any potential rookie brought in. Either way, the Jets won’t be winning anything very soon, but they may try and run with Bridgewater as their franchise guy.
It will be paramount to build up the offensive line and bolster the defense to help put the former Louisville product in a spot where he can thrive; keep the score down and keep the quarterback clean. Another interesting aspect of this is how the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, former QB coach Jeremy Bates, handles Bridgewater. Speculators have stated that his QB1 is Josh Allen. In other words, the polar opposite of the new signee. How Bates reacts and molds his system to fit a lesser-armed quarterback will be a story to watch unfold.
As a Jets fan, I am readily waiting to be disappointed by whatever my team brings upon me. But on a realistic note, there are some fundamental notions I feel are almost a lock to happen. We should expect a quarterback controversy. It is New York, there will be multiple quarterbacks, and the team has failed to make the playoffs for what is quickly turning into a decade. Watching the media eat Bridgewater alive once he does not perform to their unrealistic expectations will be ugly, but taken with a grain of salt as no one lives up to these expectations. Overall, Bridgewater feels like a bridge to the next early round rookie quarterback, but he is one with unique upside to actually be a franchise quarterback. It would be a surprise to watch him start 16 games, and even more stunning to watch him win. But hey, anything is possible.
On the field, Bridgewater will most likely not become what we thought he could be. However, he still has all the tools to be a productive starter. He is a smart passer who can deceive a defense and is electrifyingly accurate— those things don’t go away with a bad leg. It may not be what we originally thought, but there is reason to be excited. If “Teddy Two Gloves” is just a shell of what he was in Minnesota, then the Jets have found their best damn quarterback in a long time.