In a stunning move that thrusts Minnesota 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 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.
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.
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 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.
Bradford is once again teaming up with Adrian Peterson, just like he did during his redshirt freshman season at the University of Oklahoma. Back then, Bradford was looked at as one of the purest quarterback prospects in football. The Vikings are hoping to recapture some of that magic as they take advantage of their current roster window.
Former Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is also on Minnesota's staff as a tight ends coach.
"Me and Shurm have a great relationship," Bradford said. "We spent a lot of time together, and I think he knows me really well as a player and as a quarterback ... what I like and things we've done in the past.
"I'm really excited to get to work with him and see him again."
It was hard to imagine Bradford playing elsewhere in 2016 after the Eagles shielded him all offseason. There were plenty of inquiries, including by the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos but Philadelphia was determined to keep Bradford as a buffer for the developing Wentz. Bradford, meanwhile, wanted to get out of Philadelphia.
His wish was granted in a significant way Saturday.
Bradford, who was traded to Philadelphia for fourth and sixth-round picks by the then-St. Louis Rams, now joins a long boom-or-bust list of quarterbacks who were dealt to other teams for first-round picks. Brett Favre, John Elway, Joe Montana, Jay Cutler, Drew Bledsoe and Carson Palmer were all involved in deals over the years that included a first rounder. Then again, so were Craig Erickson, Bert Jones, Richard Todd, Brad Johnson and Steve Walsh.