New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s return to football is one of the most inspiring stories in the NFL. Once seen as the Minnesota Vikings long-awaited savior at quarterback, Bridgewater suffered a horrifying knee injury prior to the 2016 season. The injury was so bad that some thought Bridgewater might not be able to walk again. Nonetheless, the former first-rounder returned to the gridiron in 2017 and spent the 2018 season backing up superstar quarterback Drew Brees. Now, Bridgewater is a free agent hoping to land a starting job.
2019 NFL Free Agent Profile: Teddy Bridgewater
Despite returning to the NFL back in 2017, Bridgewater hasn’t seen much playing time in recent years. Bridgewater threw just two passes in 2017 and started a meaningless Week 17 game for the New Orleans Saints in 2018. During that game, Bridgewater completed 14 of 22 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. It’s worth noting that the Saints had nothing to play for and clearly didn’t spent too much effort coming up with a gameplan. Additionally, this was Bridgewater’s first time seeing significant playing time in over three years.
Bridgewater initially started the 2018 season with the New York Jets and actually had a chance to win the starting job. During his preseason action, Bridgewater completed 74% of his passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He played so well that the Saints sent a third-round pick to New York in exchange for his services. This offer was too much for New York to turn down, and Bridgewater spent the year in the Big Easy.
Bridgewater spent the first two seasons of his career starting for the Minnesota Vikings. While he never lit the world on fire, Bridgewater showed franchise potential as a low-end starting quarterback. Through his first two years in the league, Bridgewater completed 65% of his passes for 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. He played well enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod and in 2015 and should have only improved with time. However, the knee injury drastically affected the course of his career and now Bridgewater looks to get his career back on track in free agency.
Bridgewater won’t come cheap, but he should be a cheaper option than fellow free agent Nick Foles. Bridgewater’s future is directly connected to how general managers feel about the incoming class of quarterbacks. By and large, the 2019 quarterback draft class is expecting to be a fairly underwhelming grouping. While some have franchise potential, not many are expected to be ready to start on day one. Because of this, Bridgewater could be a perfect bridge quarterback for a team drafting a developmental prospect.
Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, and Washington Redskins would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t do their research on Bridgewater. Dwayne Haskins is probably the only rookie quarterback ready to start, and Jacksonville and the Giants are both in prime position to grab him. New York has the higher pick, but Jacksonville could easily jump them with a trade. New York can use Eli Manning to hold the fort for one or two more years, but Jacksonville has nobody. Signing Bridgewater would give them a quick fix at quarterback in case they cannot get Haskins or if Haskins isn’t ready to start as a rookie.
This writer believes Denver will ultimately ignore the quarterback position in the draft and sign Nick Foles to be their franchise quarterback. However, if Elway doesn’t like what he sees in Foles, he could easily sign Bridgewater and develop a guy like Drew Lock. Alex Smith, meanwhile, almost certainly won’t play in 2019, meaning Washington needs a quarterback. Depending on if he can find his pre-injury form, Bridgewater might actually bring more in 2019 than Smith brought in 2018.
If Bridgewater cannot find the starting job he’s looking for, there’s a very real chance he returns to the New Orleans Saints. The Saints clearly like Bridgewater, as they gave up a third-round pick for one year of his services. Drew Brees is coming back for at least one more season, but he’s already 40 years old. Time is not on Brees’ side, and Bridgewater could choose to ride the bench and eventually take over for Brees. Sean Payton is one of the best offensive coaches in football and New Orleans is one of the most passer-friendly locations in the league. There’s a lot to like here for Bridgewater, but staying would mean riding the bench for at least one more season.
Last Word on Teddy Bridgewater in Free Agency
Teddy Bridgewater is one of the top quarterbacks available in free agency and will likely have a chance to battle for a starting position in 2019. He’s not good enough to keep a team from drafting a quarterback, but he’s good enough to start while a younger player learns the NFL game. After battling back from a horrific knee injury and proving he can still play in the preseason, Bridgewater should see a respectable contract.
If Bridgewater’s looking for a place to start, the most likely fits are the Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins, and Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is probably aiming for Dwayne Haskins, but they’d probably like to sign Bridgewater as a stopgap at quarterback. Denver is probably looking at Nick Foles, but Bridgewater would be a good fit in that offense. Lastly, Washington needs somebody to replace Alex Smith, and they don’t have the draft capital to easily select a franchise quarterback. Bridgewater can hold down the QB1 spot for these teams, but all three will probably look for a higher-upside option.
If Bridgewater cannot find the job security he’s looking for, he should have a home in New Orleans. Drew Brees will run the offense for at least one more season, but he’s nearing the end of his career. There isn’t a better place to be a quarterback than New Orleans, and Bridgewater could set himself up to be the next franchise quarterback. It would take some patience on his part, but the long-term upside is unmatched on the open market.
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