Bring on Bridgewater
Saints answer biggest roster question with acquisition of former first-round draft pick
Remember the last scene in "The Color of Money," when Paul Newman’s character “Fast Eddie” Felson challenges his former protégé Vincent Lauria, played by Tom Cruise, to a match of Nine-Ball after being hustled in an Atlantic City tournament by the kid he took under his wing?
Felson, whose vision betrayed him, is wearing a new set of prescription sunglasses. When the cocky Lauria asks Felson what’s going to happen when he “kicks his ass,” Felson tells him he’ll get back up and beat him at the next tournament in Dallas, Houston, or the month after in New Orleans.
“What makes you so sure,” Cruise’s Lauria asks.
As he makes the break, Newman’s Felson says, “Hey, I’m back!” before the credits roll.
In an amazing film career, the scene became one of Newman’s most iconic, and helped him win the Academy Award for Best Actor, his first Oscar win after eight nominations, seven of them for Best Actor.
Although he led one of the best drafts in NFL history in 2017, I get the feeling that on Wednesday afternoon New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis could have slipped on a pair of shades and acted out a similar scene as he announced the team had sent a third-round pick in next year’s draft to the New York Jets in exchange for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick.
“We are very pleased to obtain a young player with quite a bit of playing experience in Teddy Bridgewater,” Loomis said, announcing the deal. “He’s a successful quarterback and we know he will be a great addition to our quarterback room.”
When we last saw the Saints in a game that mattered, they had their collective heart pulled out of their chest as they lost a divisional playoff game on a fluke play. While the team picked itself up and is seen by some experts to be a preseason favorite to compete in the coming Super Bowl, there are as many who believe they might not even win their division. The odds seemingly swayed in the Saints favor after the trade was made.
The Minnesota Vikings made Bridgewater, 6-2, 215 pounds, a first round draft pick (32nd overall) out of Louisville in 2014. In Week Three of his rookie year, he played in his first NFL game (against the Saints), took over as the Vikings starting QB. In 13 games he completed 259 of 402 passes (64.4%) for 2,919 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, ran the ball 47 times for 209 yards and one touchdown, and became the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. In his second year, he led the Vikings to the NFC North title after posting an 11-5 record and was selected to the Pro Bowl after completing 292 of 447 passes (65.3%) for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions and an 88.7 passer rating, while carrying 44 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
His promising career came to an abrupt halt when he suffered a knee injury in a 2016 preseason practice that kept him sidelined until late in the 2017 season. This past offseason, Bridgewater signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Jets, but became expendable on Wednesday after they named Sam Darnold, who they selected with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, as their starter.
“We are excited to add Teddy Bridgewater to our team,” said Saints head coach Sean Payton. “We look forward to working with him and watching him continue to develop as a player.”
At this point, it looks like the Saints are on the better end of the deal. In essence, they are getting a first-round talent for a third-round pick. Not too shabby.
Bridgewater gives the Saints some needed peace of mind. The biggest question mark on the Saints roster was at the backup quarterback position. Tom Savage, Taysom Hill, and J.T. Barrett had been battling to be the Saints’ No. 2 quarterback, and one will likely land the gig in the short term until Bridgewater gets up to speed with the Saints play calls, which will likely take four to six weeks. Should catastrophe strike with a sidelining injury to starting quarterback Drew Brees, Bridgewater has proven himself to be a reliable NFL-level starting QB. Therefore, the drop off in play wouldn’t necessarily be as steep with the other less proven QBs on the roster.
If there are downsides to the deal, they are that the Saints will be on the hook for a $5 million insurance policy, and he could bolt next year.
There are intriguing reasons for Bridgewater to consider staying in NOLA, though. While “heir-apparent” has been used a bit too loosely with Saints backup quarterbacks over the past few seasons, the fact is Father Time will eventually catch up to Brees. The 39-year-old signed a two-year deal in the offseason. He’s chasing two significant NFL records, the career records for passing yards and touchdowns. He should get the yardage mark this year, but will likely need two seasons to take the TD record. But if he leads the Saints to a second Super Bowl championship this year, the future Hall-of-Famer might decide to hang up his jersey for good this year.
But even if Brees plays for two more years, Bridgewater is just 25 years old. He could be re-signed to a long-term deal and, at 27 – the same age Brees was when he came to the Big Easy, be in place to take over the Saints offense when Brees leaves.
For now though the team is in great hands, and it may now be even better positioned for its second party with the Lombardi.