Prior to the 2018 season, the Saints surprised many by sending a third-round pick to the Jets for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
At the time, Bridgewater hadn’t started a game in two seasons due to a gruesome knee injury. Additionally, a third-round pick is quite the compensation for a backup quarterback, leading many to believe that Sean Payton planned to have Bridgewater be the team’s future quarterback.
After appearing in just one meaningless game in 2018, Bridgewater was a free agent and was expected to depart from New Orleans. However, rather than sign with the Dolphins, who were offering him the starting quarterback position, he opted to stay with the Saints.
In 2019, Bridgewater got his chance to shine. In Week 2 against the Rams, Brees fractured his thumb, and from there, Bridgewater needed to keep the team’s Super Bowl hopes alive. Early on, the results weren’t pretty:
Week 2: 5.50 Y/A
Week 3: 6.56 Y/A
Week 4: 6.43 Y/A
However, after that, something clicked, and Bridgewater suddenly was much more willing to push the ball down the field. All of a sudden, his numbers spiked significantly:
Week 5: 9.24 Y/A
Week 6: 6.67 Y/A
Week 7: 7.39 Y/A
It’s worth noting that Bridgewater’s best two performances came against two talented defenses in the Bucs and Bears. Meanwhile, the team went 5-0, and although defense played a major role in that, Bridgewater’s ability to limit negative plays and run an efficient offense cannot be overlooked.
This past offseason, Bridgewater finally got the lofty contract he was looking for, signing a three-year, $63 million deal with the division-rival Panthers. Should New Orleans have tried harder to bring him back? I’m skeptical.
Although Bridgewater’s production improved, those still aren’t ground-breaking numbers, and he benefitted greatly from an offense that generated a lot of yardage after the catch and utilized a lot of play-action passes. $21 million is a lot of money, and even now, Bridgewater is only average 6.8 yards per attempt in Carolina.
The Panthers have done a great job surrounding him with a talented receiving corps who can make plays after the catch, but considering the Saints’ lack of financial flexibility, it was probably smart for them to pass on bringing him back; they even received a third-round compensation pick for his departure.