When the Minnesota Vikings traded for Sam Bradford right before the start of the 2016 season, it seemed like he was nothing more than a temporary quarterback fix while Teddy Bridgewater recovered from a devastating knee injury. Now, Bradford, who is entering the final year of his deal, could be in line for an extension.
On Thursday, GM Rick Spielman was noncommittal about a possible extension, but then later named Bradford as one of several players who are due for a new deal, according to Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune.
Though he wouldn’t commit to anything, Spielman was complimentary of Bradford. “I can’t tell you how hard it is for him to accomplish what he was able to accomplish,” Spielman said. “The one thing I know about Sam Bradford was that the way he played in the second half of his year in Philly  and the way he played here, I think he’s just right now in the prime of his career.”
Bridgewater's status is one of the main reasons why Bradford's stay in Minnesota could be longer than initially anticipated:
Rick Spielman said there is still no timetable for Teddy Bridgewater. He would not say that he is 100 percent certain Teddy will be back.— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) February 23, 2017
With uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s status for 2017 and beyond, it gives the Vikings more reason to keep Bradford around as a safety blanket. Bradford had a good year with the Vikings, completing 71.6 percent of his passes, which was an NFL single-season record for a starting quarterback. He also finished with a career-high 3,877 yards passing with 20 touchdowns and five picks.
The Vikings looked like the best team in the NFL through the first five weeks of the season, with the offense clicking and the defense the best in the league. Injuries then struck the Vikings seemingly nonstop, and they fell to 8-8 on the year.
The offensive line struggled mightily in part due to those injuries, which didn’t help backup running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata try to help Bradford on the ground with Adrian Peterson out. Peterson could be out of Minnesota next year, so a strong line and viable options in the backfield are going to be needed moving forward.
Bradford is set to become a free agent in 2018, but the team really doesn’t have many other options if Bridgewater can’t return, and looking elsewhere could be too risky.
"Everything's in flux right now," Spielman said, via ESPN’s Ben Goessling. "I'll just leave it at that."
Despite Spielman’s deflections, Bradford’s got the coaching staff behind him.
“I think Sam played great this year, No. 1. I think he’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback,” head coach Mike Zimmer said at his season-end press conference. “Right now all I’m worried about is Teddy getting better ... But Sam has done remarkable with the things he’s done this year.”
Pat Shurmur, who took over as the offensive coordinator midway through the season for the Vikings, feels that a full offseason will help Bradford moving forward.
“That connection between the quarterback and the skill players is extremely important, and that chemistry is built really in the offseason,” Shurmur told Goessling.
Between that and the Vikings making it a priority to fix the offensive line this offseason, an improved Bradford wouldn’t be too much of a surprise in 2017. An overall better offense that can stay on the field would undoubtedly help a defense that was gassed by the end of the season.
While Bridgewater’s status is certainly a disappointment, Bradford has shown he can be a solid backup plan while the Vikings wait and see what the future holds with Bridgewater.