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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Unlike with Favre, Bradford could provide Vikings with long-term solution at QB

By Judd Zulgad

The proclamation by Peter King last week that Sam Bradford was the quarter-season MVP in the NFL was met with skepticism from this corner. Bradford had been good in his first three starts, but Mike Zimmer’s defense was the true star for the 4-0 Vikings, right?

Upon further review, we might have sold Bradford short.

That became clear Sunday as the veteran completed 22 of 30 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-13 victory over Houston at U.S. Bank Stadium. Bradford did this despite being sacked twice and taking some hard hits after his injury-riddled offensive line allowed pressure.

Bradford has now hit on 88 of 125 passes (70.4 completion percentage) for 990 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 109.7 passer rating in his first four starts.

So does this make Bradford an MVP candidate? Yes, it does.

Bradford’s numbers are incredibly similar to the stats posted by Brett Favre in his first four games as the Vikings’ starter in 2009.

Favre, whose named was tossed around in MVP discussions as he led Minnesota to a 12-4 regular-season record and the NFC championship game, completed 85 of 125 passes for 837 yards with eight touchdowns, one interception and a 104.6 passer rating during the Vikings’ 4-0 start.

Bradford was acquired by general manager Rick Spielman from Philadelphia on Sept. 3 for a first- and conditional fourth-round pick. The move came four days after expected starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic knee injury in a practice at Winter Park, leaving the Vikings searching for a solution at the most important position on the field.

Backup Shaun Hill started in the Vikings’ 25-16 season-opening victory at Tennessee, completing 18 of 33 passes for 236 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 77.3 rating.

Bradford got up to speed and took over the following week against Green Bay. He has played better than anyone could have expected.

“He’s really accurate, number one,” coach Mike Zimmer said Monday, when asked what he liked about Bradford. “He knows where to go with the ball the majority of times. … He’s quick getting the ball out. I think he just has a good feel for … maybe the word is throwing the guys open. Leading them to the right spot. He knows he’s going to get hit, but he’s going to stand in there and take it. He’s a tough guy.”

While Bradford’s early success in 2016 is similar to Favre’s, what makes his play more impressive is that he has had to quickly learn a system with which he wasn’t entirely familiar. He has done so with some help from a coaching staff that includes his two-time coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur is the Vikings tight ends coach but worked with Bradford in St. Louis and Philadelphia.

When Favre signed with the Vikings late in training camp in 2009, he joined a team that ran the type of West Coast system he had played under for 16 years in Green Bay. He knew more about that system than many on the coaching staff.

In that case, the Vikings talked Favre into joining the team late in training camp after realizing that what looked like a Super Bowl-quality roster was unlikely to reach its potential with either Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels as the starter.

Favre also turned 40 years old in October 2009, meaning the Vikings knew he was a short-term solution to a problem that needed to be addressed.

Bradford could turn out to be a very different case. The top-overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Rams, Bradford is only 28 years old and appears to be entering his prime.

There were many who questioned if it was wise for Spielman to give up a first-round pick for Bradford because their thinking was he hadn’t reached his potential in his first four years in St. Louis or one season with Philadelphia. Bradford also had torn the ACL in his left knee in 2013 and again in the preseason in 2014.

There also was the feeling that Bradford might be a short-term solution and that Bridgewater remained option number one for the Vikings.

But there are two important factors to consider. One, there’s no guarantee that Bridgewater will make a full recovery and be the same player after suffering a dislocated left knee, a torn ACL and other structural damage in a noncontact injury. Two, Spielman didn’t trade two precious draft picks for the right to jettison Bradford because Bridgewater might return at some point

Bradford is in the first year of a two-year, $35 million contract he signed with the Eagles last March, about a month before Philadelphia made Carson Wentz the second-overall pick in the draft. His $18 million annual salary reportedly was tied for 15th among current quarterback contracts.

Bradford’s making a base salary of $7 million this season and his salary cap hit is the same. But his base salary jumps to $13 million in 2017, and with a $4 million roster bonus that will become fully guaranteed on fifth day of the league year in March, that will mean his salary-cap hit will jump to $17 million.

And that’s if the Vikings don’t attempt to sign Bradford to a long-term deal this offseason. This doesn’t mean that Bridgewater’s time in Minnesota has to be finished, but it does mean there are decisions to be made, including whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Bridgewater’s rookie deal next May.

Then there is the issue of running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in Week 2 against Green Bay, and is out for an undetermined amount of time. At best Peterson won’t return until late in the season. The Pro Bowl running back will turn 32 in March and is due to count $18 million against the Vikings’ salary cap in 2017.

There is no way the Vikings will bring him back on that contract, but with Bridgewater as the starting quarterback, and on his rookie contract, the assumption was Peterson would get a renegotiated deal that would be very favorable. That is unlikely to be the case with Bradford now eating up salary-cap room and potentially signing for the long term.

The Vikings will return from their bye week on Oct. 23 in Philadelphia looking to equal the 6-0 start of the Favre-led 2009 Vikings. They will do so with the confidence that they have a starting quarterback who, so far, has achieved the same type of success that Favre did.

Only, in this case, franchise officials will have a level of confidence that they have found a long-term solution at the most important position on the field.

The post Zulgad: Unlike with Favre, Bradford could provide Vikings with long-term solution at QB appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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