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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Bridgewater video shines light on Vikings’ complicated quarterback situation

By Matthew Coller

One day after Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told XMNFL radio that Teddy Bridgewater is only doing “non-weight bearing” activities in his rehab, the Vikings’ quarterback posted a video of himself throwing a football. Nothing could have been more emblematic of Minnesota’s murky quarterback situation.

The Vikings have been careful about revealing information about Bridgewater’s recovery. Yet the 24-year-old quarterback decided to sneak a clue into his social media game.

Teddy Bridgewater posts a video of himself throwing on Instagram

So we stand in limbo. Is he on the verge of a return? Might he miss all of next year as Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reported? Could he never play again? The possibilities are all over the map.

Conflicting messages only add to the convolution surrounding the Vikings’ future under center.

Sam Bradford’s future

When GM Rick Spielman traded for Sam Bradford 10 days before the 2016 regular season, he noted that a major benefit of the deal was that the former Rams and Eagles’ QB was under contract through the end of 2017. (As a side note, that remains one of the only indicators from Spielman of a potential Bridgewater timeline.)

Bradford’s deal may be beneficial right now – otherwise the Vikings would have been looking into trades for Mike Glennon or Brock Osweiler – but his contract also presents a dilemma for the front office. Following a season in which he posted the sixth best quarterback rating in the NFL, it seems like a safe bet that Bradford would want a long-term contract rather than head into the final year with no security.

But signing Bradford long term comes along with significant risk. Remember, he’s been through two ACL injuries of his own. He’s also coming off a career year. If baseball fans looked at Bradford’s NFL record 71.6% completion percentage, 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and career-best rating, they would ask whether this level of play was sustainable.

Those same baseball stats nuts might also mention the flawed nature of QB rating and point out Bradford was 19th in Yards Per Attempt, 17th in the ESPN-invented stat QBR and third-to-last in Yards Per Attempt on third down.

There is hope that adding a tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers will make life easier on Bradford. After all, he managed solid numbers when throwing downfield, but didn’t often get enough time to do so with two struggling backup tackles. Still, it’s a tough sell to predict that a quarterback with a career 81.0 rating before 2016 would just need better protection to become a consistent star performer.

If the Vikings are sure that Bridgewater could make a full recovery, they will head into this season feeling relaxed about Bradford’s contract. That would leave two possible paths: If Bradford is great, he gets a long-term deal and Teddy gets traded to the highest bidder. If Bradford is mediocre, Teddy takes his old job back. But we don’t know how sure they are that Bridgewater will return to full strength.

Another possibility for the Vikings is approaching Bradford’s contract like Washington has with Kirk Cousins or Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor. Each club has basically gone year-to-year with their good-but-not-great quarterbacks and avoided being locked in.That comes at a price, though. Franchise tagging Bradford would mean paying out top dollar for 2018.

What does handling of Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins say about Sam Bradford’s future?

Bridgewater’s future

Bridgewater’s first-round status gives the Vikings a choice of picking up or declining his fifth-year option, which would pay him more than $11 million in 2018. And that money would be guaranteed whether he was healthy or not. ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported the Vikings are likely to pick up his option. A decision will have to be made on his option before the May 2 deadline unless the Vikings and Bridgewater worked out a contract extension. But the young quarterback doesn’t have any incentive to do so.

If the Vikings were deadlocked into Bradford after last year, they would probably decline the option and take the risk of Bridgewater becoming a free agent after next season. By picking it up, they will be indicating that there’s still some hope that he, not Bradford, will be the long-term solution.

In that case, we would have a good old fashioned quarterback controversy if Bridgewater made progress throughout 2017 and showed signs of returning to his 2015 form.

While his numbers in 2015 weren’t exactly similar to Drew Brees’s, Bridgewater’s production was better than his quarterback rating indicated. The Vikings routinely used Adrian Peterson inside the goal line, so while quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford tossed a bunch of 1-yard TDs, Bridgewater rarely was given the chance to do so.

With a deeper dive, some numbers point to the former Louisville Cardinal possessing more dynamic skills than Bradford, despite a far less impressive deep ball. On third downs, Bridgewater averaged 7.9 Yards Per Attempt while Bradford posted a mere 5.9. When trailing between 1-8 points, Bridgewater averaged 8.8 YPA, while Bradford only put up 6.7.

Coller: Traditional stats won’t explain why Bridgewater is hard to replace

Of course, one of the major reasons why Bridgewater succeeded in tight games and on third downs was his pocket presence and ability to make a play on the move. There’s no telling if his legs will allow that once he returns.

Age would play a role in any Bradford vs. Bridgewater battle. If they are seen as similar in Wins Above Replacement despite having different skill sets, the younger QB would always get the nod.

Bridgewater might also have the support of the locker room. Not that anyone seems like they’re against Bradford – who performed admirably despite tough circumstances – but it was noticeable that Stefon Diggs included Bridgewater’s leadership value in a Player’s Tribune piece midway through the 2016 season and that multiple teammates Retweeted articles about him throwing the ball for possibly the first time since his injury.

Bottom line

While it certainly came off as a little fishy that Zimmer’s report on Bridgewater was refuted by Bridgewater, the young quarterback’s Instagram throw doesn’t really say much about his future prospects.

Famed South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a similar injury in college to Bridgewater’s, made it all the way back to try out for the San Francisco 49ers, He eventually retired. Former Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper made a comeback after his knee injury, but was never the same, going 3-17 as a starter after leaving Minnesota.

There isn’t much the Vikings can do except wait and see how he progresses. There isn’t much fans can do but wait and keep an eye on his social media accounts.

The post Bridgewater video shines light on Vikings’ complicated quarterback situation appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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