In the aftermath of Teddy Bridgewater’s unfortunate injury, Minnesota didn’t have many options if they wanted to compete for this season. A new quarterback was needed via trade, and sure enough, Sam Bradford has headed from Philadelphia to Minnesota, in exchange for a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick. Anything could still happen now to these two NFC teams, so as the NFC staff writer it’s up to me to decode it all!
What it means for Minnesota
Evidently, the Vikings sense they have a roster outside quarterback capable of challenging for a playoff place, or going even further. Given how patiently their roster has been built, it’s hard to imagine they’d give up a first-round pick for a stopgap solution otherwise.
Minnesota under Sam Bradford oughtn’t be tremendously different from Minnesota under Teddy Bridgewater last season. Bradford is an efficient short-range passer, a mid-tier quarterback who can manage a game adeptly but works best alongside a strong run game, much like Bridgewater last season. Now, preseason suggested that Bridgewater had made a bit of a jump in quality, and that obviously won’t happen. But if the Vikings were a good playoff team last season (and they were), they will expect to be round about the same level this season if Sam Bradford performs as expected.
Why didn’t they just run with Shaun Hill you ask? It’s a fair question. Before the 2014 season, Hill was thought of as one of the best backups in the league. His career QB rating is very similar to Bradford’s. But when we saw Hill in 2014, his arm strength had suddenly deteriorated, and he looked much less accurate. Two years later, he’s 36, will likely have weakened further and may well be a liability. Why was he on the roster then? No idea. To tutor Teddy maybe?
Bradford’s also a canny but cautious move as he will be contracted for the next two years. It’s to be hoped Bridgewater is back by next season, but ACL tears can be unpredictable beasts, and if Teddy’s not at full-tilt by this time next year, they’ll have another year of Sam Bradford there to hold the fort as long as is needed. If Bridgewater’s injury is bad enough that he can no longer play to a high level (here’s hoping not!), then Minnesota have time to discover that, time to make 100% sure they know that, and pick up a QB in the 2018 draft or offseason.
(There is a slight issue though – Bradford himself has a bit of an injury history. Specifically, a history of ACL tears, having missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons because of them (thus making his okayish 2015 season look a bit better in comparison). God, imagine if Bradford now tears his ACL this year too. No-one will ever want to QB the Vikings again, it’ll be cursed!)
Make no mistake, Minnesota’s roster outside of QB is very strong – Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s premier running back, players like Stefon Diggs and (hopefully) Laquon Treadwell provide a young and ascendant receiver core. On defense, players like Sharrif Floyd, Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph stand out in a phenomenal front seven, Harrison Smith is an elite safety, and there are a bunch of young, improving cornerbacks. You can see why the Vikings top brass think a decent-ish calibre QB is enough for them. And you can also see why they think they have enough of a core of an excellent team that they can afford to lose one first-round pick (and one 3rd-or-4th-rounder). If they had given up much more than that, they would’ve been putting their future at risk.
What it means for Philadelphia
Mainly, it means that everything I wrote about Carson Wentz’s development last week no longer applies. Thanks for that, Howie Roseman. Philadplehia have named Wentz the starter, so no-one will be surprised if they finish with a worse record this season. But if that’s 5-11 rather than 7-9, does it really matter? They obviously feel that Wentz’s development would be best served by getting game experience early, and that their O-Line is strong enough that he won’t get beaten to a pulp before he knows what he’s doing.
It also means that suddenly, $21m over 3 years for Chase Daniel looks a bit dubious (who knew?!). That’s a lot of money to pay to a backup in a summer you also trade away several picks to get a new QB. Maybe Daniel’s an excellent teacher, or maybe he’s just underwhelmed in practice and everyone is surprised.
The underrated part of this move for the Eagles is that their roster needs a QB like they’re hoping Wentz becomes – a somewhat gunslingery, big-armed exciting player. The Eagles’ roster just isn’t strong enough to excel with a short-range-passer like Bradford. Wentz might not become a ferocious, big-play-machine, but he represents the possibility of that, rather than the certainty of mediocrity.
And of course, there’s the first round pick. Despite what Philadlephia gave up to trade up for Wentz, they’ll now get a first round pick next year. It’ll be lower than what they gave away, because it’s not unreasonable to expect Minnesota to get back to the playoffs, but picking at about 23 overall (say) is a pretty good outcome, all things considered.
What it means for Cleveland
Wait, Cleveland, what? But of course: the Browns get Philly’s first-round pick next year because of Philadelphia drafting Wentz this year with Cleveland’s pick. We’ve already said that Philadelphia will be a touch worse this year than last, and I threw 5-11 out there, which is quite possibly a bottom-5 record. And that’ll be Cleveland’s top-5 pick. Cleveland are probably already going to have a top-five pick of their own, being possessed of the second-weakest roster in football. So, Cleveland could well find they have two of the first five picks in next year’s draft.
That’s not a bad situation to be in, is it?
Summarize This Then
A trade that makes sense for all parties, and there’s hope it’ll work from all sides. Minnesota are banking on the depth across their roster. Philadplehia are saying they don’t mind having a bad season. Cleveland are reaping the rewards from canny draft trades and patience.