In a stunning move that thrusts Minnesota Vikings right back into the NFC North arms race, the Vikings executed a blockbuster trade for Eagles quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford on Saturday, the Eagles announced.
The Vikings gave up a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018 that can become a third- or second-rounder based on conditions — a massive price to pay for what could amount to one season of work. The Eagles paid $11 million of Bradford’s salary as part of the deal, which means Minnesota will only be on the hook for $7 million in 2016, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
The news was first reported by ESPN and, oddly enough, mentioned in a deleted tweet by Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips earlier on Saturday morning.
For his part, Bradford said he’s “really just excited” to get an opportunity with the Vikings.
“Just excited to be here right now, anxious to get into the playbook and start learning the offense,” Bradford told the Vikings’ official website. “I can’t wait cheap NFL jerseys to get in there and get after it.”
The deal was in the works for a few days, Rapoport noted on NFL Network. After Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome dislocated knee injury and torn ACL on Tuesday, the team began a search for an adequate replacement. The Vikings won the division last year with Bridgewater throwing just 14 touchdown passes — the hope is that Bradford can hold the fort down and manage games in a similar way. He is currently in the first year of a two-year deal worth $36 million, which could give the Vikings an option in 2017 if Bridgewater’s recovery timetable lengthens. Bradford threw for 3,725 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions a year ago in Chip Kelly’s clunky offense.
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Bradford’s departure from Philadelphia and arrival in Minneapolis leaves a shocking ripple effect throughout the league. We may be looking at No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz starting sooner than 2017. The Eagles will likely roll with longtime Andy Reid backup Chase Daniel on opening day against the Browns, unless Wentz’s rib injury has healed enough for him to play. If he’s healthy, look for Wentz to start Week 1, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Philadelphia is getting a first-round pick back in 2017 after dealing their own first-rounder to the Browns in April for the right to select Wentz at No. 2. And Cleveland, the team that owns the Eagles’ original 2017 first-round pick, has to like the idea of Philadelphia starting a career backup and rookie for 16 games in 2016. Should that pick end up in the top 10, the Browns could end up being the biggest winners of all in this trade.
Make no mistake: This was about much more than strengthening a depth chart. The Vikings recently cut the ribbon on a $975 million, glass-encased stadium. The team — and fans — would likely prefer the optics of a franchise-type quarterback under center to start the season instead of a rookie or an aging veteran backup.
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Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who, according to Rapoport, also liked Nick Foles and some of the backups on Baltimore’s roster, was adamant that he was not giving up the farm just to replace Bridgewater for one season.
“The one thing that I will not do, and I promise you this, is put our organization in a situation where it’s going to inhibit us or hurt us going into the future,” Spielman told reporters Thursday. “By that, I mean people are asking for some crazy things. People think that you are desperate, and we are not going to do something wholesale jerseys that in my estimation, and talking with Coach Zim (Mike Zimmer) and our ownership, that puts us in a situation where we jeopardize the future of this franchise.”
He added: “We’re not giving up any of these young, talented players that we have, I can tell you that right now. Us, we work too hard as our coaches and our scouts, to build this thing and to go out and draft guys and develop guys to just give them away for a guy that may come in here and only be here for seven months.”
Spielman later said in a conference call that Bradford having two years left on his contract “played a huge part in this deal” as Bridgewater has a long rehab ahead.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace’s journey from underappreciated third-round pick in Pittsburgh to highly paid free-agent experiment in Miami to silent partner in Minnesota nearly came full circle on Tuesday.
The team officially announced Wallace’s release after trading a seventh-round pick for the wideout almost one year ago. Wallace finished his only season in Minnesota with 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns.
A Pro Bowler in 2011, Wallace saw a rapid rise in stock under Bruce Arians’ offense in Pittsburgh, and racked up nearly 200 catches and 26 touchdowns over a three-year span between 2010 and 2012. The Dolphins paid handsomely for his services during an epic free-agency binge in 2013, but came to quickly regret a five-year, $60 million contract for a player they did not know how to use.
That has been the story of Wallace’s career since. He fits beautifully with a cannon-armed, mobile quarterback and is still a burner on the outside. Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater were not the best fits. Still, Wallace went from 73 catches, 930 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 to 67 catches, 862 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 before making even less of an impact in Minnesota.
Could a reunion in Pittsburgh make sense?
The Steelers have not been shy in welcoming back weapons from their past. Wallace, who will turn 30 just before the season opener, probably has some good football left in him under the right circumstances. The list of right circumstances might just be small. Wallace butted heads with coach Joe Philbin in Miami, eventually leading to his ouster.
By default, he quickly becomes one of the better free-agent receivers available in a dismal class.