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What does a move to Injured Reserve mean for Sam Bradford’s future?

One day before the Minnesota Vikings’ deadline to activate Teddy Bridgewater, ESPN reported that the team may decide to place Sam Bradford on Injured Reserve to create a roster spot.

The Vikings’ veteran quarterback has not played since Week 5 against Chicago. He exited after the first half and has not practiced or been active for a game since then. Bradford is dealing with knee issues relating to multiple ACL surgeries. He has seen experts including Dr. James Andrews, but apparently has not made progress.

As you might expect, missing the rest of the season would be crushing to Bradford’s chances at a long-term contract.

Had Bradford played and produced solid numbers and made the playoffs, he could have been looking at a deal north of $100 million. As noted here, Bradford’s stats aren’t that different from where $135 million quarterback Matthew Stafford’s were at the time of his extension with the Detroit Lions.

Assuming Bradford didn’t make a miracle comeback in the playoffs (NFL rules allow two players per year to come off IR after eight weeks), his options will be cut down significantly because teams won’t be willing to take a risk on him.

Here are five possible outcomes for Bradford next season:

Return to the Vikings

You might assume that Bradford’s career in Minnesota will come to an end the moment he’s placed on IR, but there’s still a possibility that he could be under center for the Vikings next season. If Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t return to 100 percent this year and struggles in his comeback or he ends up as a free agent and leaves Minnesota, the Vikings will be desperate to fill the QB spot again next year. Names like Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees are thrown around all the time, but there’s no guarantee they will actually be available. Bradford would come at a reduced price and likely on a 1-year deal, so the Vikings might take their chances on a low-risk deal so long as they had a quality backup (or even drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds).

Even if Bridgewater comes back to 2015 form and either signs a long-term deal with the Vikings or has his contract toll, there would still be a chance the Bradford would take a deal as a backup if he couldn’t find another team to make him their starter.

One-year deal in Washington, Miami or Mystery Team X 

We’ve learned just how desperate NFL teams are for good quarterback play. Last offseason, the Chicago Bears gave Mike Glennon $19 million guaranteed, only to have him benched for top pick Mitch Trubisky. As long as Bradford could pass a physical, it would be surprising if there wasn’t a team willing to sign him to a one-year deal, especially if the club has a decent-to-strong roster an wants to win. Washington could lose Kirk Cousins to free agency and it’s hard to see Jay Cutler sticking around for another year in Miami. There will always be teams like Cleveland or the New York Jets who draft QBs but want a veteran to compete with their youngster for the starting spot.

Wait until a QB is injured early in 2018

The Cutler route is tried and true. There will always be quarterbacks who get hurt and leave their teams desperate for options. This year we have seen that more than any in recent memory with Aaron Rodgers, DeShaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer all suffering season-ending injuries. Bradford could wait until a team was in desperation mode to grab a significant short-term deal.

Take 2018 off, look to return in 2019

Vikings fans would remember well that Randall Cunningham was out of football for a season before coming to Minnesota, so rejuvenating a career after time off isn’t unprecedented. Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito missed a season following a bullying incident and has come back playing at a Pro Bowl level. Maybe one year’s rest is what Bradford needs to nurse his knee back to health. He’d be less likely to get a starting job if he sat out, but would likely have suitors to let him battle for a position in camp.

Retirement 

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Bradford would much rather be someone’s starting quarterback and have a chance to prove he could win in the NFL than call it a career. However, he’s made $114 million since coming into the league in 2010. If his knee simply won’t respond to treatment, Bradford could go down as one of the all-time, “What could have been?” players. Two ACL tears, bad teams, loads of talent.

  • Marc Spector

    A good spot for him would be the Jags, Broncos, or even Cards.

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  • Clark Stewart

    Bradford is likely done and Vikings need to move on. His injuries are a concern so would not invest any money in him. Vikings definitely need to target a QB in the draft next year.

    • SM

      Not so fast… Let’s see what TB brings. If he is healthy, no need to waste a top draft choice. TB, Case, Sloter in camp is good. If he hasn’t walked into any doors, Taylor Heinicke can be brought back for 3rd string. This team is too good for a rookie at qb. I don’t care how well Philly is doing, Manziel and RG3 were top picks too.

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      • Ken Shalek

        Case won’t be here next year. Sloter more then likely won’t be here. Teddy is damaged goods now. Vikings should always be looking for a franchise QB.

        • SM

          That’s a longship-full of aassumptions, haha. Time will tell with TB, but Vikings have ample reasons to keep Case and Sloter.

        • Laurie K.

          Why wouldn’t Keenum or Sloter be here next year, if TB is damaged goods as you claim? You really think if TB proves that he can’t play going forward, that Spielman would let Sloter and Keenum get away? Then what, draft another QB who is going to take time to develop while this teams SB window is open? Doesn’t make much sense now does it?

        • Andrew Romano

          Maybe you didn’t know this but Sloter is under contract for next year. Maybe you also didn’t know that all his comparables actually exceed that of Daunte Culpepper except straight ahead speed (less 0.1 second in the 40). Daunte’s Wunderlick was a 13 of 40 whereas Sloter was 38 of 40. He is a franchise quarterback with only 1 year of college experience. By comparison, in what he’s done in college & high school he makes Carson Wentz look like a lost puppy. His up side is off the charts & he’s running our scout team just like Daunte. Denver planned to stash him on the PS. We nabbed a franchise QB. He’s no fluke. Several teams wanted him at the trade deadline. Why do you think Sloter was backing up Keenum without raising an issue with either Spielman or Zim. He’s the real deal … with a bit of rust. It’s a big secret that’s about to burst all over the NFL. Watch Utube on the kid. He’s remarkable. TB has to play out.

  • JonasGrumby

    I would retire on a lot less than 114 mil!

    • Laurie K.

      yeah, as long as I can buy gas for my boat and minnows for my line, I’d be fine retired.

  • Ken Shalek

    Did anyone believe Bradford was anything but a short term solution to a long term problem?.

  • David Prestin

    It all depends on if this latest cleaning fixes his pain problem. If it does and he somehow is activated for the playoffs and leads the Vikings to a super bowl victory……or if our oc gets a head coaching job maybe he signs there. Too early to tell. If his leg is still painful, then he retires. A shame. Man his game vs New Orleans was a thing of beauty.





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Previous Story Vikings bring back G Willie Beavers, cut RB Bronson Hill Next Story How Teddy Bridgewater’s arm and mind endeared him to the Vikings