Teddy Bridgewater is already a fan-favorite in New Orleans, but how does his trade to the Saints and his contract impact the team beyond the field?
Ask yourself, did you really expect the Saints to trade for Teddy Bridgewater during this offseason? A majority of Saints fans loved the idea, but it was almost a consensus agreement that New Orleans would be okay without the fourth-year quarterback. Also, the cost of Bridgewater, who is arguably the best backup QB in the entire league, seemed very high. And it didn’t seem as though the Saints would bite.
Lo and behold, however, the trade for the former Louisville star was executed early Wednesday afternoon. The Saints sent a 2019 third round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Bridgewater and a 2019 sixth round pick. This ensures the team will have a more-than-viable backup to Drew Brees this season.
Despite Taysom Hill’s impressive offseason and the veteran presence Tom Savage brings, one or both of those quarterbacks will be cut or moved around the roster to make way for Bridgewater as the sole backup to Brees.
Of course, the team isn’t expecting Bridgewater to overtake Brees this season. They are covering all ground in case of any freak accidents. The team is in its usual “win now” mode, but even more-so this year with a stacked roster. If anything were to unfortunately happen to Brees, leaving the team in the hands of Bridgewater would keep a Super Bowl run intact. Far more so than it would with either of the other quarterbacks.
The catch: Bridgewater is an unrestricted free agent after this season. He may never play a down in a Saints uniform, let alone start a game. Quite a few teams will need a starting-caliber quarterback in 2019 and Bridgewater would receive very high-paying offers.
There is a lot of conflicting information floating around about what happens if the Saints don’t keep Bridgewater past this season. Some are claiming that the Saints would get a third round compensatory pick. But that would come in 2020 rather than 2019 and the Saints would have to meet some unlikely criteria to make it happen and Bridgewater would have to go to a team where he would be the starting quarterback for the majority of the season. So, basically, the Saints may be paying $5 million and a third round pick to have Bridgewater as a backup for one season whether he plays or not.
Brees may continue playing after this season, as his current contract goes through the 2019-20 season. It doesn’t seem likely Bridgewater would take a pay cut and sit another year or two while Brees continues to QB the Saints. But, would Brees retire if the team wins it all this season? How much money will Bridgewater really be commanding if he doesn’t play this year?
For the 2018-19 season, Bridgewater’s cap hit will be $5 million on the Saints’ books. According to www.spotrac.com, his incentives on the year are as follows:
$250,000 for 2,500 passing yards or ten total touchdowns
$500,000 for 2,751 passing yards or 16 total touchdowns
$1.25 million for 3,001 passing yards or 21 total touchdowns
On top of that, if Bridgewater plays 50-percent of the snaps for this season, he will receive an extra $250,000 per game, up to $4 million. If that occurs and the Saints make the playoffs, Bridgewater is owed another $2.5 million. So, unless Brees suffers a major injury, Bridgewater will be receiving just the base $5 million this season. Brees’ bill of health in New Orleans is fantastic, so a significant injury seems highly unlikely, even at his age.
However, having Bridgewater’s talent behind Brees is the best possible case for New Orleans’ upcoming season. Like the Eagles last year, Sean Payton is trying to turn this Saints team into a consistently formidable roster inside and out.
If Brees rides this entire season out, Bridgewater will still be getting many looks during the 2019 free agency period. His electrifying season in 2016 with the Vikings combined with his impressive preseason outing with the Jets this past month will garner $15 million-$17 million per year contract offers.
The only way New Orleans matches or exceeds those offers to retain Bridgewater is if Brees retires in early-mid 2019. Seeing as the 16-year veteran has shown little indication of a departure that soon, Bridgewater may only be spending this year as a Saint.
That would be an absolute bummer to Who Dat Nation, as Bridgewater is continuously being pegged as the heir to Brees. The Saints could very well have found their next franchise quarterback. They could also be put right back to square one at the position this time next year.