By Anthony Brousseau
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reported Friday that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is likely to miss the entire 2017 season.
Bridgewater suffered a gruesome, freakish knee injury in practice during the preseason, preemptively derailing what many predicted would be a breakout season for the young passer.
Cole’s news isn’t exactly surprising – Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and complete ACL tear, and the team announced right away there was no timetable for his return. There’s even talk that his injury could be career-ending, which would be just one more piece of evidence proving the Vikings are a cursed franchise.
Looking ahead to 2017, the Vikings have a few different options at quarterback – although there’s a clear No. 1 option, Bridgewater’s injury shows the best-laid plans of mice, men and Mike Zimmer often go awry.
The blockbuster trade that brought Bradford to the Vikings has been debated endlessly – in the end, Bradford’s performance, despite the team’s overall failure, probably justified the high price. In 2017, Bradford is the clear frontrunner for the Vikings’ starting job.
Bradford threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions in 15 games. He’s also still under contract next year, adding to his case for the starting job.
There’s two potential roadblocks to Bradford starting: his cap hit and his desire for a new contract.
If the Vikings keep Bradford on his current deal, he’ll count for $18 million against an already depleted cap. That’s a hefty price, especially for a team that is, as of right now, scheduled to pay Adrian Peterson $18 million as well.
Now, the Vikings will almost certainly address the Peterson issue and, with quarterback being the most important position, it’s probably worth it to overpay a bit. That said, almost every quarterback with a cap hit as large or larger than Bradford’s is among the elite – the only quarterbacks you could argue are worse than Bradford in that group are Brock Osweiler and Ryan Tannehill.
On the other side, Bradford, sensing Bridgewater’s potential return, may push the Vikings for a new deal before the beginning of next year. If he’s looking for an upper-level quarterback deal (nearing $20 million a year), the Vikings will have a difficult decision to make.
Odds are, Bradford will start next year. But it’s not a sure thing.
Drafting A Quarterback
Just three years after taking Bridgewater in the first round, could the Vikings pull the Cleveland Browns special and use a high draft pick on a QB?
No. Besides the obvious impediment that the Vikings don’t have a first round pick, they’re not going to invest a high pick on a quarterback, especially with Bradford still on the roster and Bridgewater potentially able to make a return.
Aside from all of that, many draft experts are saying this is a weak quarterback class. The Vikings would be wise to take a late round flier on a QB, but spending a high pick would be ill-advised.
Free Agent Quarterbacks
The list of free agent quarterbacks is a veritable murderer’s row of underperforming passers. Some of the big names include Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, former Vikings Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel and perennial franchise tease Brian Hoyer.
Free agency is probably the least likely route for the Vikings. None of the names inspire confidence, and paying Bradford is a much better option than paying any of these guys.
There are a couple of high-profile names that could be released from their teams this offseason. The obvious one is Tony Romo, who after injuring his back lost his job to arguably the best rookie quarterback of all time, Dak Prescott. The Cowboys are simply paying Romo too much, and Prescott showed too much potential, to keep the 36-year-old on the roster.
Romo could be traded, but if the Cowboys can’t find a partner he’ll likely be released. The Vikings aren’t a likely destination, however, due to Romo’s high price tag.
Another quarterback who could be released is the Buffalo Bills’ Tyrod Taylor. After firing head coach Rex Ryan before the final game of the season, the Bills benched Taylor in favor of former first round pick E.J. Manuel.
Taylor’s an intriguing prospect – his mobility is much more similar to Bridgewater’s than Bradford’s, and he would allow offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to try a few new looks (I’m drooling imagining the wildcat run by Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerick McKinnon and Taylor). Taylor would also come cheaper than Romo – while he’s played well in his time starting for the Bills, it’s not like he set the world on fire.
If Taylor is released, he’s probably a more realistic option than Romo, a draft pick or a free agent. But Bradford is still the Vikings’ clear best choice, and it would be a real shock if he doesn’t take the snaps on opening day in 2017.
If Bridgewater’s injury taught us anything, though, it’s that you can always count on the Vikings to surprise you.