As the NFL, through its in-house media conglomerate, pushes the notion that Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s contract won’t be tolled from 2017 to 2018, allowing him to become a free agent, the NFL officially is taking a more equivocal position.
“No decision has been made,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarty told PFT via email on Tuesday morning.
The situation involves two issues. First, does the placement of Bridgewater on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list to start the 2017 regular season trigger a provision in the labor deal that automatically tolls his contract for a year? Second, and perhaps more importantly, was Bridgewater improperly placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list to start the 2017 regular season?
As to the first question, the language of the CBA seems clear. If a player in the last year of his contract misses six games due to being physically unable to perform, his contract tolls for a year. As to the second question, an arbitrator could decide to reject the medical testimony and documents supposedly supporting the decision to keep Bridgewater on the PUP list. An arbitrator recently made a similar decision in a grievance filed by Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron, who successfully argued that the team improperly put him on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list to start the 2014 season, robbing him of a year of credit toward free agency.
The Vikings hope to avoid the perception/reality that they’d be responsible for keeping Bridgewater under contract for another year. The league eventually must decide whether it wants to risk losing another fight of this nature, exposing yet again the extent to which doctors can manipulate medical decisions in a way that advances the strategic interests of the team that pays them.
However it plays out, a decision needs to be made soon. The free-agent market officially opens in 15 days.