Sam Bradford has a chance to finally prove his worth

Updated: September 9, 2016
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Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)


Sam Bradford‘s career in the NFL has been … interesting, to say the least. The St. Louis Rams, who now reside in Los Angeles, took him first overall in the 2010 draft, and paid him the type of money that led many to believe he would be the second-coming of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. But, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

He signed a six-year, $78 million contract to begin his career, including $50 million — I repeat, $50 million — fully guaranteed. At the time, that was the most money paid to any player in NFL history — and he had yet to take a snap.

But he hasn’t lived up to that hefty contract. Bradford has been injury prone since entering the league, and has only played a full 16-game season twice (2010 and 2012). The numbers haven’t been great, with his best season coming in 2012, when he threw for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. And he hasn’t won much (hardly at all) since coming into the NFL. Bradford has a record of 25-37-1 as a starter, with zero trips to the playoffs. He’s basically been considered an overpaid, overhyped quarterback since stepping onto the professional scene.

He spent last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, playing for the “offensive genius” of a head coach, Chip Kelly. The Eagles traded away Nick Foles, who suffered a season-ending injury the year prior, in hopes that Bradford was the perfect fit for Kelly’s system. Bradford was solid, 7-7 as a starter, but he wasn’t able to get the Eagles over the hump. They had an opportunity to seize the moment in a nationally televised game against the Washington Redskins in Week 16, and Bradford and company came up short. Something we’ve seen time and time again from the highly-paid quarterback who still hasn’t proven his worth.

That disappointing season in Philly caused Kelly to get fired, the Eagles to trade up and draft Carson Wentz with the second pick, Bradford to sign a confusing, two-year, $36 million deal to remain with the Eagles — only to turn around and get traded to the Minnesota Vikings one week before the regular season begins. Credit to the Eagles: they acquired a first-rounder in 2017 from Minnesota, a pick they traded to the Cleveland Browns to move up in the draft, and also received a 2018 fourth-round pick, which could turn into a third- or second-rounder based on certain conditions.

Minnesota was in desperate need of a reliable quarterback to replace Teddy Bridgewater, who dislocated his knee in practice and will miss the entire 2016 season — which could carryover into 2017. So they took the risk of giving up two picks to acquire Bradford, keeping their fingers crossed, hoping he can be a suitable option for this season. And if he plays well, the Vikings could eventually be Bradford’s team.

But that’s the biggest question mark: Will he play well? He’ll have Adrian Peterson — who was a teammate of his in college at Oklahoma — to hand the ball off to, and a plethora of weapons on the outside, including speedy wideouts Charles Johnson and Stefon Diggs, as well as rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Not to mention, he’ll have 6-foot-6 tight end Kyle Rudolph — who caught five of the Vikings’ 14 touchdown receptions last season — roaming the middle of the field. Everything Bradford wanted, and needs, will be served to him on a silver platter. All he has to do, is go out and be effective, manage the game, and lead the Vikings back to the playoffs — which is what head coach Mike Zimmer is aiming for.

The Vikings also have a very good defense returning this season. They have a deep secondary, led by All-Pro safety Harrison Smith, and a stingy front seven. They surrendered only 18.9 points per game last season, which was good for fifth in the NFL.

There’s no guarantee that Bradford will start in Week 1, due to the trade taking place so late in the preseason. So don’t be surprised if Shaun Hill is behind center when the Vikings take on the Tennessee Titans Sunday. But before long, Bradford will be the captain of the ship.

He hasn’t always been in the perfect situation, but this time is different. He has a defense in place, arguably the best running back of this generation behind him, and several receiving threats. This is also a team that’s coming off an NFC North title.

This season, we’ll get to see what Bradford’s truly made of. Will he disappoint, yet again? Or will he rise up and prove to the world that he’s worth every penny that he’s made in his career? There’s no more excuses for the 28-year-old quarterback. Now it’s time to produce.

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