I realize this will go against what the more vocal critics of the Sam Bradford acquisition are saying.
Oh, you didn’t hear what they’re saying?
“What a joke.”
Fine. We get it. Bradford is an easy target because of his injury history and his career earnings – and his career record of 34-45-1.
Bradford missed 14 games last season because of another knee injury, and he’s certainly been rewarded more for his potential than for his actual accomplishments.
Though his knees are not young, he is, chronologically, only 30 years old.
Bradford, along with 2017 teammates Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater, was made expendable when the Vikings committed an astonishing load of guaranteed money to free-agent Kirk Cousins.
That doesn’t mean Bradford wasn’t valued – or improving health-wise.
In fact, Bradford, activated from injured reserve Jan. 13, had so impressed Vikings coach Mike Zimmer during practices that he was Keenum’s backup for the team’s two postseason games – not Bridgewater.
This signing is a little reminiscent of the trade for Carson Palmer. And, if the Cardinals can make some major moves to upgrade the offensive line, a “Palmer in 2015” season doesn’t seem too much to expect.
Doesn’t every starting quarterback come with the “If he stays healthy” caveat?
What happens when Bradford is healthy?
He is a Heisman Trophy winner for the Oklahoma Sooners who was the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
He played on some challenging Rams teams his first four seasons, and his fit in 2015 with the Eagles and Chip Kelly didn’t go well.
But let’s take 2016, when he completed a league-high 71.6 percent of his throws, and his strong start in the 2017 opener.
Among quarterbacks with at least 15 starts the past two seasons, only four – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees – own higher passer ratings than does Bradford.
He’s thrown 23 touchdown passes and only five interceptions the past two seasons.
All right, so what happens if he is injured? That’s what makes the Cardinals’ next move so intriguing. They have to have the guy who will follow Bradford.
There’s talk of bringing aboard last season’s free-agent bust Mike Glennon, but that wouldn’t inspire much confidence in the “what if Bradford gets hurt again?” crowd.
Again, the Cardinals must not whiff on their quarterback of the future.
They must find a way to secure the draft prospect they have targeted and either trade up to get him, or take him at 15 and hope Bradford and the coaches provide enough to have the draft pick ready to take over.
It’s not unprecedented. Witness Tom Savage, playing the Bradford role last season. He wasn’t injured – just played an awful two quarters in the season opener and was replaced by rookie Deshaun Watson, whose seven games (before he, too, was injured) produced a 103 passer rating, 19 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Now, who plays the Deshaun Watson role for the 2018 Cardinals?
Reach Jay Dieffenbach, editor for pro sports at azcentral and The Arizona Republic, at [email protected] or 602-444-2426. Follow him on Twitter @therealJD2424.