The Vikings traded a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Eagles to acquire Sam Bradford. Minnesota can’t be blamed for wanting a veteran quarterback who isn’t 36-year-old Shaun Hill, but the decision to give up so much for Bradford was a bit surprising. This is a short-term rental that says a lot about the Vikings’ postseason aspirations in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater’s injury.
Bradford hasn’t exactly been a stellar NFL quarterback, never quite living up to his first overall draft status. After a 2010 season in which he set an NFL record for the most passes completed by a rookie quarterback, earning him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, injuries derailed his Rams career and he was traded to the Eagles following the 2014 season. He struggled in 2015, turning the ball over 24 times in 14 games for the Eagles.
The Vikings won the NFC North last season, and prior to Bridgewater’s season-ending injury, Minnesota seemed poised to repeat as division champs and make some noise in the postseason. Bridgewater’s injury left the Vikings with Shaun Hill as the best starting quarterback option on the roster.
The Vikings had hoped to build on last year’s success. They finished the season with an 11-5 record and got knocked out of the playoffs in a heartbreaking 10-9 Wild Card round loss to the Seahawks.
Minnesota still has the makings of a very good team. Adrian Peterson remains one of the best running backs in the league, but at 31 years old, the Vikings are acutely aware that his window is closing. The team used its first-round pick in 2016 on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, and the defense is expected to be one of the league’s best.
Minnesota gave up its 2016 first round pick to Philadelphia for Bradford. It’s likely to be a later pick in the first round, but a first-round pick nonetheless. The 2017 fourth-round pick they traded to the Eagles for Bradford could become a second- or third-round pick, depending upon Bradford’s success with the Vikings, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer. While giving up so much for Bradford may seem shocking on the surface, it’s less so when you consider the move is just short-term solution.
The Eagles signed Bradford to a two-year, $35 million contract with $22 million guaranteed this offseason. Bradford is under contract through 2017. Bridgewater is definitely out for the entire 2016 season, and he may not be fully ready by Week 1 of the 2017 season.
But Bradford carries a cap hit of $22.5 million next season. It’s possible that, regardless of Bridgewater’s status, the Vikings will move on from Bradford before the team is on the hook for his 2017 salary. They could also restructure and try to hang onto Bradford if they feel like his performance this year is worth it and Bridgewater isn’t ready for Week 1 in 2017.
And the Vikings know precisely what they’re getting with Bradford. Minnesota’s tight ends coach, Pat Shurmur, was Bradford’s offensive coordinator in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Bradford and Peterson were teammates for a season at Oklahoma in 2006.
The Vikings have also just opened US Bank Stadium, and while Bradford certainly has myriad flaws, it may be easier to get people in seats with Bradford under center than Shaun Hill.
While the decision to acquire Sam Bradford makes sense in theory, the reality is that he has not been a particularly good NFL quarterback. His track record against NFC North opponents has been especially poor. In six career games against this division, Bradford is 0-6 with a quarterback rating of 26.2.
There’s another interesting match here with offensive coordinator Norv Turner. While Turner’s head coaching record left something to be desired, his past success with quarterbacks speaks for itself. Turner’s offenses typically feature a mix of mid-range and deep passes along with a power running game. Bradford started his NFL career in a West Coast system and has played in a variety of offenses throughout his six seasons in the NFL. This system is, theoretically anyway, a better fit for his skill set.
The Vikings were a good team in 2015, and under Mike Zimmer’s leadership, they seem to be a franchise headed in the right direction. Still, Bridgewater is a young quarterback with, presumably, his best years ahead of him. Giving up a first-round pick next year, knowing that the team needs to start thinking about life after Adrian Peterson, is a big risk. The fourth-round pick in 2017, which could become a higher pick if Bradford plays well, could also be a hindrance as the team tries to remain competitive beyond this season.
Shaun Hill will become a free agent following the 2016 season, and the severity of Bridgewater’s injury may cause him to miss time next season. The Vikings also have to make some decisions about starting left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Andre Smith, both of whom will hit free agency after this season.
It’s clear from Minnesota’s decision to acquire Bradford that the Vikings are in win-now mode. They paid a premium for Bradford, which has led to some early criticism of the deal — understandably so. However, with Peterson’s age and the momentum the team built in 2015, coming so close to advancing in the playoffs, Mike Zimmer and his staff made the decision to capitalize on the talent on the roster now. We’ll see if it pays off for the Vikings.