Can you hear it now? The kickoff to the 2020 season at Mile High Stadium, hopes even higher for Broncomaniacs and the P.A. announcer proclaiming, “Your Broncos starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater!”
Why should that thought alone elicit excitement from Broncos fans? What does Bridegewater bring to the gridiron that recent quarterback retreads don’t?
Bridgewater is young (26 years old) but has a solid amount of experience (42 games). He’s a mobile QB but also incredibly accurate passing the football this year. And, maybe most importantly, his teammates love him.
How do we know he’s beloved? Larry Holder of The Athletic, who covers the New Orleans Saints, went on the site’s podcast The Lead on Monday to discuss “The year of the backup quarterback” but more specifically, Bridgewater.
And his story is triumphant.
Coming out of college, Bridgewater was the next big thing, although he dropped to No. 32 overall in 2014, picked by the Minnesota Vikings. His first two seasons in the NFL were solid; in 2015 he and the Vikings went 11-5 while Bridgewater was a calm and collected game-manager quarterback. He threw for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, also running in three scores along the way. His lone playoff appearance was lackluster with no scores, but he also didn’t turn the ball over as his Vikings lost 10-9 to the Seattle Seahawks.
But then, it happened.
In the lead-up to the 2016 season, Bridgewater blew out his knee in a non-contact drill during training camp. It was so bad that teammates were pounding lockers and crying in the locker room. Not just because of the injury, but because they loved him.
Bridgewater not only was unable to play football, he feared he’d lose his leg. That seemed to change his entire outlook on life.
Last year, the embattled quarterback was traded by the New York Jets to the Saints and he was used sparingly thanks to Drew Brees being the starter. And in the offseason he could’ve gone to Miami and become the Dolphins’ starting quarterback but instead wanted to stick it out with the highly competitive Saints, even knowing he’d ride the bench behind Brees.
But, not so fast.
Brees was injured in Week 2, hurting the thumb on his throwing hand, which meant Bridgewater was thrust into the starting lineup.
What did the journeyman quarterback do with his shot? Go 5-0 and play phenomenally well.
In those five games, Bridgewater completed passes at a superb 67.7 percent clip and threw nine touchdowns compared to only two interceptions; he was on pace for a career year. Until Brees stepped back into the starting lineup last week.
Thanks to Teddy helping keep the Saints’ heads above water, New Orleans is 7-1 and clearly in competition for the NFC title and even the Super Bowl.
And, it’s leading to people begging the question: What’s next for Teddy Bridgewater?
He could stick it out in New Orleans, but there’s little chance Brees hangs up his cleats after this season. Why would Bridgewater hold out for multiple years when he knows; 1. His career could be over in the blink of an eye and, 2. He could be a starter right now.
Of course, with his superb play, teams all across the NFL who are QB-needy are currently drooling. And so should Denver.
Yes, the Broncos have tried this before. Most famously, there was Peyton Manning. But, in recent years, Case Keenum and Joe Flacco have been Denver’s quarterback retreads. Why would Bridgewater be a better fit?
He’s at the perfect age to build a team and an offense around. Bridgewater has already gone through the difficult bit of learning how to play in the NFL his first few seasons, now he’s primed and ready to slice and dice defenses just as he’s done in New Orleans this year.
That experience showed this year when he was able to step into the Saints’ complicated offense and help generate 25 points per game. What it means is he would likely be able to jump into Denver’s offense and generate points and positive yards immediately.
He’s also, by all reports, a loved teammate and just a regular guy. After going through those injury troubles, now Bridgewater rides his bike to the stadium on Sundays. What other NFL quarterback can say the same? He’s special.
And, instead of trying to find yet another quarterback in the NFL Draft and failing (Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian etc.), the Broncos can focus their draft picks on players to surround Bridgewater. Like, offensive linemen, depth at receiver and filling holes on the defensive side, too.
Plus, signing Bridgewater to a deal means Drew Lock won’t be hurried to the field as he can take his time and learn under a fellow mobile QB.
Here’s the catch: Not only will Bridgewater be a highly valued and desired commodity this offseason, he’ll also come with a $20-25 million per year contract. Of course, Denver is willing to pay that to a quarterback; look no further than Flacco’s deal this year.
But, whatever the price, Denver should pony up and help the Broncos be competitive for years to come.
Without a doubt, Teddy would be a bridge over troubled waters for the Broncos.