The Vikings need a true franchise quarterback. Maybe they’ll eventually decide to find out if their presumed franchise quarterback from two years ago can finally become the franchise quarterback they need.
Judd Zulgad of 1500espn.com makes the case for the Vikings keeping Bridgewater in 2018, giving him a chance to become the guy that they thought he would be before a freak accident at practice shredded his knee and derailed his career. As Zulgad notes, only the Vikings truly know where Bridgewater currently is from a health standpoint, and whether he has a chance to become the guy they thought he would be in 2016.
His numbers through two NFL seasons weren’t stellar, arguably due in part (in 2015) to the presence of running back Adrian Peterson, who when healthy was the focal point of the offense. When needed to move the ball through the air with games on the line, Bridgewater did that — most significantly in the playoff loss to Seattle, where Bridgewater did everything but kick the field goal that Blair Walsh shanked.
Bridgewater had no blame for that fateful play from two years ago at TCF Bank Stadium, and he’s one of the few whose fingerprints appear nowhere on the Minneapolis Meltdown from Sunday night, given that Bridgewater was a healthy scratch.
How healthy he truly is will determine whether the Vikings try to keep him from hitting the open market. Chris Simms mentioned on Tuesday’s PFT Live that, when he went to Lambeau Field for the late-season Vikings-Packers game, Bridgewater still seemed to be favoring the reconstructed knee during pregame warmups. If the Vikings believe that’s the case, it will definitely be a factor.
But if they think he’s healthy, maybe he deserves the chance to become the guy in 2018 that the Vikings thought he could be in 2016.
One key question in this regard will be the next offensive coordinator, and it likely will be fairly clear from the interviews for the gig whether and to what extent the team has Bridgewater in its plans for next year. Bridgewater definitely will be the cheapest in-house (and external) option for the Vikings, since Bridgewater surely won’t be looking to the franchise tag as the starting point for a long-term deal. And to the extent that Bridgewater’s agent will be gauging the market, everyone except Giants coach Pat Shurmur will have no idea as to whether Bridgewater is truly healthy enough to play.
The fact that the current head coach/G.M. regime brought Bridgewater on board also works in his favor, given that at one point he was — and still may be — their guy. Zulgad notes that coach Mike Zimmer remained lukewarm about Case Keenum through much of the year. While it may have been a motivational tactic, it also may have been a true indication of a belief that Keenum’s success was a non-sustainable fluke. If there’s any silver lining from the nasty cloud of noxious fumes hanging over the Vikings after the 38-7 debacle in Philadelphia, it’s that the Vikings won’t be nearly as compelled to keep Keenum around as they seemed to be after the once-in-a-seven-lifetimes win over the Saints.
So with the $23 million franchise-tag option removed from the table when it comes to Keenum, the Vikings can move away from other high-rent options (Drew Brees remains a fascinating possibility) and potentially entrust the guy whose potential career as a franchise quarterback was derailed by fate. A guy who still could become the franchise quarterback the Vikings so badly need.
At worst, the Vikings can find a cheap veteran backup to serve as the Plan B if Plan Bridgewater doesn’t work out, and the Vikings can resume their search for a true franchise quarterback next year. When they’d be drafting considerably higher than No. 30 in round one, if things don’t work out for Teddy.