This week has brought several news items about Teddy Bridgewater and his future in Minnesota. That future continues to look pretty grim.
First, there was Vikings GM Rick Spielman telling reporters that there was still no timetable for when Bridgewater might be back doing a full slate of football activities on his surgically repaired knee, which was badly injured last August. Then came an ESPN report that said the Vikings were likely to pass on picking up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option for 2018, a decision that has to be made no later than May 2. And now there’s the possibility that Bridgewater could remain sidelined for the entire 2017 season, the final year of his rookie contract.
The Vikings still have a way to hang on to Bridgewater beyond 2017, even if they don’t exercise his option. As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport pointed out, if Bridgewater were to be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list this summer without later being added to the 53-man roster, his contract would be “tolled,” which effectively means that the final year of his deal would be frozen and then restarted for 2018.
This is significant for several reasons—and stay with me because it gets a little complicated:
1. Exercising the option would guarantee Bridgewater’s 2018 salary for injury only, at a cost estimated to be $12.198 million—a hefty increase (and cap charge) from his ’17 salary of approximately $1.35 million (with a cap charge of $2.179 million). By not exercising the option, the Vikings would be signaling that there’s too much financial risk in doing that.
2. As Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio discovered, the Vikings can toll Bridgewater’s contract simply by placing him on Reserve/PUP before the start of the regular season. Ordinarily a Reserve/PUP designation would keep a player from practicing until after Week 6, at the earliest. But Article 20, Section of the CBA states that a player in the final year of his deal will have his contract tolled if he “is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game”—something that cannot happen if the player is placed on Reserve/PUP.
3. If the contract is tolled, 2018 would become the fourth year of Bridgewater’s contract, at a salary of roughly $1.35 million. And because the decision on his fifth year has to be made now—before the tolling—2018 would then also be the final year of Bridgewater’s deal.
4. Sam Bradford, who is serving as the Vikings’ quarterback in Bridgewater’s stead, has one year remaining on his contract. Which means that by sitting Bridgewater in 2017, the Vikings could transition back to him in 2018 at a cost well below what it would have been had they exercised his option and not tolled his contract. This assumes that Bridgewater will be ready to play in ’18, of course.
5. As Florio further noted, the Vikings could make 2019 Bridgewater’s option year by picking up his option now and then tolling him. But: “If they think he’ll stay on PUP in 2017 and that he won’t be ready to play by 2019,” Florio wrote, “that would be the most ominous news yet regarding his knee injury from nearly eight months ago.”
God, Teddy Bridgewater is so screwed.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post stated the Vikings could decide to toll Bridgewater’s contract only after placing him on injured reserve at some point during the season.