Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
With the thrilling conclusion of Super Bowl LI Sunday night, the 2016-17 NFL season came to a close. That means the Minnesota Vikings offseason begins now.
Yes, admittedly the Vikings offseason began a little over a month ago when they were eliminated from playoff contention before bringing an official end to their season with a 38-10 beat-down of the Chicago Bears to finish 8-8, but now their offseason can OFFICIALLY begin, according to the NFL calendar.
For Minnesota, their offseason begins with a number of questions. And important ones at that...
Who will be Minnesota's quarterback in 2017, Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater?
Will Bridgewater even be healthy enough to play in 2017?
Will Adrian Peterson return to the Vikings?
What will be done to boost a weak offensive line?
Can the Vikings improve without a first-round draft pick?
Such questions will obviously be answered starting February 28 at the NFL Combine and once free agency begins on March 7 (negotiations begin on the 7th but contracts with unrestricted free agents cannot be signed until March 9),but I will be taking an in-depth look at each of these questions throughout this week. I will also be providing a comprehensive breakdown of the Vikings current roster, who's staying and who's going, what they could do in free agency and what they can do in the draft in the weeks to follow.
Let's start today by looking at the quarterback conundrum that lies ahead between Bradford and Bridgewater.
Bradford was deemed the starter last season after Bridgewater's horrific knee injury ruled the third year pro lost for the year. Bradford was brought in via a trade with the Eagles in exchange for a first and conditional fourth-round pick; a steep price to pay for a then inconsistent and injury-prone quarterback, but a necessary one given the Vikings' circumstances.
The reigns of the offense were handed to Bradford in week two of the season and he never looked back, completing an NFL record 71.6 percent of his passes while racking up 3,877 yards 20 touchdowns, five interceptions and a QB rating of 99.3; solid numbers for a quarterback brought in one week before the regular season started.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said during his end of the year press conference that Bradford would enter next season as the starting quarterback, admitting that Bradford had earned that right and the focus with Teddy was simply on getting healthy. However, what will the team do if Bridgewater is healthy and ready to play?
The Vikings players and coaching staff love Teddy and have seemingly never said a bad word about the kid. When Bridgewater was drafted, he was seen as the quarterback of the future until the knee injury gave reason for concern.
In his first two seasons, Bridgewater played well, guiding the Vikings to a combined 17-11 record while accumulating 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Not exactly stellar numbers but the former first-round draft pick did earn a Pro Bowl appearance in 2015 while steering the Vikings to an NFC North division title and that certainly counts for something.
There have already been questions as to whether Bridgewater will even be healthy enough to return next season but, for argument's sake, let's say Teddy returns healthy and ready to play. In that case, he SHOULD NOT play next season.
Bridgewater's knee injury was described as one of the worst some had ever seen or heard. Remember when the injury first occurred, there was worry of Bridgewater actually losing the leg. That's an injury that he should not be rushed back from (not that Minnesota would allow that to happen). It's not to say that Teddy couldn't play, rather that he simply shouldn't. He should continue to rehab and make the knee stronger.
Such a thought seems preposterous given Bridgewater's contract situation (next season will be last year of his contract though Vikings hold team option for 2018 season) and what little the Vikings have seen from a quarterback who will have then sat out the last two seasons, but if Minnesota believes that Teddy is the quarterback of the future, they'll rest him next season, pick up his option in 2018 and let him play for the starting role and a new contract. Provided of course that the Vikings don't make the massive mistake of extending Bradford midway through next season.
Bradford is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season and, should the former No. 1 pick lead the Vikings to a division title or beyond, he would be absolutely deserving of a contract extension, but that is something that should be determined at the end of next season, no sooner. That is to benefit both Bridgewater and the Vikings as they don't lock up Bradford long-term only to see him get injured or, worse, struggle with so many great players surrounding him.
In all likelihood, Bradford will be the starter, likely earn a contract extension as the Vikings remain weary of trusting Bridgewater's surgically reconstructed knee and play out the 2017 season with Bradford at the helm while waiting for Bridgewater to get healthy.
The 2017 season could be one of a great quarterback debate for the Vikings, but just wait until the 2018 season when player contracts come due. That should make the QB controversy even more interesting.