The Vikings only have themselves to blame for the Sam Bradford disaster
Sam Bradford lived down to expectations. And now the most expensive rental in the NFL will have the distinct dishonor of killing two Minnesota Vikings seasons in one.
The former No. 1 pick, who was the surprise centerpiece of a blockbuster preseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, threw a crippling, game-losing interception on Thanksgiving afternoon in a first-place battle in Detroit (on a pass he had no business trying to squeeze into a spot). The loss moves Minnesota to 6-5, essentially two games behind the Lions and looking up at teams in the wild-card race. It'd be a disappointing season in any sense but given the circumstances around Bradford's arrival and his expected future, it's a full-fledged catastrophe.
Bradford was acquired when Vikes starter Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome, season-ending injury in the preseason. The 29-year-old, who has a career record of 30-42-1 and has made approximately $96 million in his seven seasons, had signed a two-year deal worth $22 million guaranteed with the Eagles and was set to be under center in 2016 while the rookie Carson Wentz, who the Eagles traded up to get with the No. 2 pick, watched. Then Bridgewater went down and the desperate Vikes hooked up with Philly to send a first-round pick in 2016 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2017 (it could go as high as a second rounder) for Bradford. A one-year quarterback traded for what you hope would be a decade-long stalwart.
It's a trade a Super Bowl contender might think about making. It's a trade a surefire playoff squad would discuss. It's a trade a team that might contend in the NFC North shouldn't touch. Given the hopes that Bridgewater returns in 2017, Bradford was always viewed as a one-year rental. When the team started 5-0, it seemed like the gutsy move paid off. Now that the Vikings are 6-5, they're a team that'll enter 2017 with a quarterback coming off a major injury, a running back on the wrong side 30, a top-tier defense that's irrelevant when the offense isn't getting more than 17 points, like in five games this season and no first-round pick to give the team any help in 2017 or beyond.
How did it come to this? Why did Minnesota give away so much to get so little for not that long? Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told Peter King about the negotiations and what Philly needed to hear before agreeing to part ways with Bradford.
“[The trade] had to include their first-round pick in 2017, plus something else. I didn’t think they’d consider that. We talked about it, but I wasn’t thinking it was very serious.”
That's gold. Roseman was like a car salesman starting a negotiation with a number $10,000 higher than his sell price. Then, to his shock, the customer not only takes that high price but then throws in an a couple extra thousand for undercoating. He didn't think they'd take it! Roseman tacitly admits the Eagles would have taken less than a first rounder. And why not? Though the trade was a shock in the moment, once you thought about the whole thing it made perfect sense. The Eagles were looking at a high-end season of 10-6 with Bradford — at best. The most likely finish was hovering just under .500. Given the success quarterbacks have had in starting their rookie seasons and the fact that Wentz was going to start in 2017, just scoot up the process a year and get back some of the picks you traded. Yeah, you'd be eating the $11 million you'd already foolishly paid Bradford for the year, but that was a sunk cost already.
In the end, the Vikings believed the Bradford hype even more than the Eagles had. What is it about him? Why do NFL teams look at him and see the Heisman Trophy gunslinger from the University of Oklahoma that was a no-doubt No. 1 pick back in 2009 rather than the mediocre quarterback who's gotten paid more than $1 million per career touchdown throw?
Whatever the reason, the Minnesota Vikings are now the third team to covet Bradford and the third team to have the cold water of reality thrown upon them when they realize he's nothing more than a backup-level quarterback in an All-Pro package. All it took was mortgaging the future to find out.