The price that the Minnesota Vikings paid, in order to acquire quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles, serves as a great test to the idea of there’s no price too great to pay when an NFL team searches for a starting quarterback.
After the Vikings former starting quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) suffered a horrific knee injury that will definitely sideline him for all of 2016, and casts a dark cloud of doubt as to whether he’ll even be ready at any point in 2017, the team faced a very frustrating future. They assembled a team that’s as ready to “win now” as any in the NFL, with one of the best running backs in a generation — Adrian Peterson — foreseeably having one good season left, and a defense that’s dripping with young, inexpensive talent at every position. Before Peterson’s career fades off in the twilight, and before the Vikings have to start making tough decisions as to who on that defense is going to get the big money deals and who is inevitably going to leave because they can’t pay everyone, the Vikings had probably one good shot at making a deep postseason run.
Without Bridgewater, that all changes. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill might have 34 games of starting experience, but he’s simply not a realistic option for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
But, the Vikings acquisition of Bradford begs the question: how much better is he really than Hill? And given that, was the price they paid — a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 — really worth it?
It seems that people tend to place greater value on the fact that Bradford was the #1 overall pick in 2010, over the body of work he’s produced in the NFL. Apologists can point to the fact that he’s had to constantly adapt to different system after different system (some of them often differing wildly from one to another), but regardless, Bradford’s career to date has been nothing but inconsistent and injury filled. He’s missed 33 of his 96 career games in the NFL; that’s more than one in three.
When he does play, he shows a penchant for throwing the ball accurately in the short to intermediate levels of the field, although often forsaking throws to wide open receivers further down the field. But, it’s not like he can be counted on in a dink-and-dunk capacity, either. His completion percentage on passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage as a pro is actually below league average (66.5 percent against an average of 69.1 percent); compare that to Bridgewater, who’s completed 73.2 percent of his passes in that same 10-yard bracket during his first two professional seasons.
The Vikings are banking on offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur to work their magic with Bradford. Shurmur coached Bradford in 2010 in St. Louis (Bradford’s rookie season) and in 2015 in Philadelphia, and Shurmur’s lobbying for Bradford was reportedly a big reason this deal was eventually consummated.
But how fast can they get Bradford acclimated into their offense? It takes months — if not years — for a quarterback to get acclimated within a new NFL offense. The regular season starts seven days after the Vikings made this deal. He’ll have no familiarity with the offense, and no rapport with the players around him. In four of his first five games, he’ll be playing Green Bay, Carolina, the New York Giants (with their newly improved pass rush), and the Houston Texans (and the man named J.J. Watt).
Plus, at what future cost are the Vikings making this deal? First-round draft picks are at an increased premium in today’s NFL, because of their inexpensive salary cap value (juxtaposed with the potential return on the field of such a player in their first few seasons). If the Vikings bet fails, and they’re hovering somewhere around an 8-8 record, they could end up sending a top 20 pick in next year’s draft — which could be absolutely loaded with premier talent — to Philadelphia.
In theory, the deal makes sense. The Vikings want to show their players and their fans that they’re all in for this season (instead of waiting for Bridgewater’s return), especially as they open a brand new stadium this year. They’re getting a guy who has NFL experience, and familiarity with some of his coaches.
But, again, what else are they really getting in Bradford besides that? And, again, at what cost? Minnesota better hope that Bradford gets them at least close to where they were hoping to get to with Bridgewater, otherwise this deal could be another disaster, on top of Bridgewater’s injury.
Photo credit: Keith Allison