In 2014 the Minnesota Vikings traded back into the first round to draft who they thought would be their franchise quarterback for years to come. Teddy Bridgewater was heading in that direction when a freak injury took that all away from him in 2016.
During practice in the offseason he dropped back to pass and tore up his knee. He not only completely tore his ACL, but he also dislocated his knee. A freak non-contact knee injury ruined the hopes and dreams of the Vikings for not only last season, but for the foreseeable future, as well.
With a team that was considered a win now team, the front office decided to make a huge move to fix their quarterback problem. Instead of going forward with journeyman backup Shaun Hill or going out and signing a veteran quarterback the Vikings traded this year’s first round pick and next year’s fourth round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford.
That showed the desperation that the Vikings had for an answer at quarterback. At first it seemed like a pretty good decision by Minnesota. Unfortunately, the team crumbled with injuries to not only their offensive line, but also their star running back, Adrian Peterson. With the Vikings not selecting a quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft we look to the offseason this year to see what they plan to do at the position.
The Vikings will have Bradford at least starting the season at quarterback with the possibility of Teddy Bridgewater coming back. Beyond this season the Vikings quarterback situation is most definitely in flux. Bradford is a free agent after this season and the Vikings did not pick up Bridgewater’s fifth year option. Not picking up that option speaks volumes of where the Vikings think Teddy Bridgewater is at.
If Bridgewater doesn’t come off the PUP List this season his contract could roll over into next season. Other than that possibility the Vikings don’t have a starting quarterback under contract moving forward. The Vikings do have multiple options forward on what they can do. A week or two back I ran a Twitter poll giving three options, asking the twitter world if the Vikings should resign Bradford, draft a quarterback in the first round next season, or move forward with Bridgewater if he is healthy.
I decided to add one more option; signing one in free agency. Why, you ask? Well, because Jimmy Garrapolo will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and A.J. McCarron is a restricted free agent. Of these four options which one is the best? Let’s break it down from every angle:
The first option we have to talk about is resigning Sam Bradford. I know how the season ended for Minnesota, but Bradford did have the best season of his career. He had a 71.6 completion percentage, threw for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, a 63.0 QBR, and 99.3 passer rating in 15 games according to ESPN. He also did this with the worst rushing offense in the NFL only rushing for 1,205 yards which was the lowest in the NFL. They ran for only 9 touchdowns which was ranked 26th in the NFL.
With the injuries to their offensive line and Adrian Peterson Bradford was still able to have a good statistical season. It also shows that Bradford wasn’t the reason for the 3-8 stretch at the end of the season. With a revamped offensive line and the Dalvin Cook/Latavius Murray combination in the backfield Bradford should have an even better season if he can stay healthy. You just never really know what you’re going to get from Bradford…that’s why he’s in the position he’s in right now.
Another option that is certainly possible is drafting a rookie. Next season the quarterback class is supposed to be one of the best in a long time, depending on what happens this season. The big names coming into this season are Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson, just to name few.
Outside of Darnold and Rosen the others are not necessarily proven commodities as it pertains to translating into an NFL offense. As they say every draft season, “the next draft class will be a better quarterback class.” As it stands now, though, this could be a viable option. These guys could have really bright futures and could become stars in the NFL. The problem with this option is that you would essentially be hitting the restart button.
The Vikings spent a lot of money to rebuild this offensive line and this defense can be elite when everybody is healthy. The other issue would be that they won’t be picking in the top ten or even top fifteen next season to get one of the top guys anyway. Essentially they would either have to grab who is ever left in the mid to late for first round or take a project in the later rounds. At that point you aren’t going to get the guy you’d want as your franchise quarterback anyway. If you can get a top guy you can make the argument, but if you can’t you’re basically hitting the reset button. A lot of teams are looking for quarterbacks, not sure there will be much available by the time they would pick.
An interesting under the radar type of move would be going the free agent route…but only in the correct circumstances. The only two guys worth signing in free agency would be Jimmy Garappolo and A.J. McCarron. Garappolo will be an unrestricted free agent and McCarron will be a restricted free agent. Going this route would probably mean that Bridgewater and Bradford have walked and you have nothing on the books at the quarterback position once free agency started.
The Vikings would be able to spend a little more on these guy than most teams because they would have almost zero money invested into the position and their cap situation would be able to handle it. The argument for signing one of these guys is they are young, they have some experience, and they would actually be at an affordable price as it pertains to quality quarterbacks.
I wrote an article on these two explaining their strengths and weaknesses and what I believe they can be in the NFL. I’m high on both of these guys and think they can be special in the NFL. In 17 career games played Garappolo has 67% completion percentage, 695 yards, zero interceptions, and a 106.2 passer rating. McCarron in seven games played has a 66.4 completion percentage, 854 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a 97.1 passer rating. McCarron also led the Bengals down the field to take the lead in his one playoff start they went on to lose due to the lack of discipline by his defense.
These guys have seen limited action, but they are young, they’ve proven they can play in the league, and they will be far less expensive than re-signing Bradford/Bridgewater, it is definitely an option. Like I said before, though, a lot of teams are in the market for a quarterback, so this could turn into a bidding war for these two quarterbacks.
The final possibility would be moving forward with Teddy Bridgewater if he is healthy. This is a really tough one because nobody knows if he’ll even be able to play again. While yes he did get out on the field and throw recently, all he did was throw, he wasn’t really asked to move around much.
The Vikings not picking up his fifth year option showed where they thought he was at to this point. Although if he doesn’t play this season his contract rolls over so if he can come back but doesn’t play this season they could get lucky in that respect if they want to move forward with him. Now if Teddy can play in the future should the Vikings stick with him? In 29 career games Bridgewater had a 64.9% completion percentage, 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and an 87 passer rating.
He didn’t have the greatest stats of all time, but at the same time they never really opened up the offense. Last season seemed to be the year that Teddy was going to get full control and really open up the offense. If healthy, Bridgewater fits this offense great especially with the additions of they have made I think who could finally flourish with his skill set. Only time will tell though if his knee will be able to hold up and allow him to play football again.
At the end of the day the Vikings have a big decision to make. Who will be their starting quarterback in 2017? It looks like that will be Sam Bradford with little resistance from the rest of the roster. But for 2018? That’s a different story.
Bradford, Bridgewater, McCarron, Garappolo, or a rookie could all come into play when the Vikes end up having to make that call. When I did a poll between resigning Bradford, drafting a quarterback in the first round, or Bridgewater if healthy, Bridgewater won getting 60% of the vote winning by a large margin.
When I put that up against signing Garappolo or McCarron, Bridgewater won getting 61% of the vote. It looks like most people want Bridgewater. I think it really depends on how this season goes. If Bradford has a great year and gets them into the playoffs they may have to resign him and let Bridgewater walk. If Bradford doesn’t look all that great or gets hurt and Bridgewater makes a full recovery, then I think that would be the best move for them. But if Bradford plays poorly or gets hurt and Bridgewater can’t come back 100% then either one of those free agents or a rookie may be the only viable option for the franchise.
It’s going to be a tough road for the Vikings, Bridgewater getting injured put a wrench in their plans. This could be the biggest story line going into 2018. What do you think the Vikings should do? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo Credit – Keith Allison via Flickr