If you follow the NFL in the slightest, then you know how important the quarterback position is in the grand scheme of things.
Even the backup position is important. I mean, you always need a “Plan B” in case the poop ever hits the fan.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their starter for 2019 in Jameis Winston, there is literally no one under contract backing him up at this point.
That’s a big deal. Outside of injury, Winston’s career hasn’t been what it was originally expected to be after he was selected first overall in 2015. Whether it be too many turnovers or bad decisions off the field, the Bucs need someone back there in case things go awry with Winston.
Enter Teddy Bridgewater. Arguably the most enticing free agent quarterback on the market, he would make a very suitable backup. But can the Bucs get him to Tampa Bay?
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER’S CAREER
Even though Bridgewater has had a decent career, he is mostly known for the gruesome knee injury that almost cost him his career - and his leg - in 2016.
Bridgewater went down on August 30th with a dislocated knee and torn ACL that he suffered during a Tuesday practice. It was a gigantic blow to the Minnesota Vikings, who had just won their first division title since 2009 the prior season.
Before that fateful day, Bridgewater had started 28 straight games for the Vikings during the 2014 & 2015 seasons. He completed 65% of his passes for 6,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His 17 wins over those two seasons were good for 11th-best in the league.
After the injury, he didn’t play a single snap until Week 14 of the 2017 season. He threw just two passes in that game on nine total snaps.
Nine total snaps. In two seasons. You don’t usually see players come back from stuff like this in the NFL.
It didn’t make his return any easier after journeyman Case Keenum led the Vikings to a 12-3 record, division title, and NFC Championship berth in 2017. All of the cards were now officially stacked against Bridgewater staying in Minnesota.
Fortunately, Bridgewater’s intense focus and unwillingness to give up landed him a one-year/$5 million deal with the New York Jets. Word of his recovery and ability to play began to spread across the league. Before he knew it, other teams were inquiring for his services and he was playing for the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2018 season.
WHY THE BUCCANEERS NEED HIM
With Ryan Fitzpatrick’s very uncertain future, Ryan Griffin’s current absence from the roster, and the unreliability (for the short-term) of Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a backup quarterback. And not just any backup, they need one that can step in and win this team games, not just manage them.
That’s because Winston will be suspended indefinitely by the NFL if he screws up off the field again. If that were to happen, then the Bucs could have a potential long-term replacement in Bridgewater, should he decide to come to Tampa Bay.
But Bridgewater is thought of as starter material in this league and that could lead to a big payday from another team with ample cap room.
Which leads to the next question.....
WHAT WILL BRIDGEWATER COST?
This is where it gets tricky. Very tricky.
There’s no reason to think that Bridgewater will want to play the backup role again. His career was budding before the injury and based off what the Jets initially signed him for and what the Saints paid to get him - I’d say the league feels he could start again as well.
He’s now two full seasons removed from the knee injury, so teams should have little to no fear about any remaining effects.
The poor 2019 draft class of quarterbacks doesn’t help the Bucs, either. A QB-needy team such as the New York Giants or Washington Redskins may turn to Bridgewater instead of a rookie draft pick. Both of those teams have plenty of cap room to pay him a nice, long-term deal.
Hell, even the Carolina Panthers could get him for a one-year deal based off the recent news that Cam Newton may sit out the 2019 season with a shoulder injury.
And of course, we can’t rule out the Saints. Even though they currently have $11 million in cap room for 2019, they did invest a third-round pick in the 26 year old. That’s a high price to have someone come in and sit on the bench for a year.
With all that being said, it’s hard to gauge his market price. One would think if he wants to start, it will cost a team around $10 million per year for his services. If he is relegated to a backup role, then it’d probably be close to the same amount he made in 2018, which was around $4-$5 million.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
There is too much potential for him to start in this league and there are a few teams with enough money and a need at the position, therefore, Tampa Bay probably doesn’t seem very enticing. The only he way would start here is because of injury or another screwup by Winston.
Tampa Bay’s cap situation did get better with the release of Vinny Curry, but it’s still probably not enough room to sign Bridgewater to the type of money he will expect.
So, no starting role, not enough money, and a losing franchise? Sounds like good reasons to avoid the Bay.