Vikings Center Adding Weight in Hopes of Year 4 Improvement

Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) reacts with center Garrett Bradbury. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings Insider, The GM’s View 

With last week’s minicamp wrapping up the Vikings offseason program, it’s break time for the players and coaches before returning to the Vikings facility for training camp in late July. 

But this doesn’t mean players stop working out and figure they’ll get in top shape when they report to training camp. That was the case for most players when salaries were much lower way back in the 1950s and 1960s as they had to work at other jobs in the offseason. 

There’s too much at stake in today’s NFL, considering the minimum salary for a rookie is now $705,000 while the minimum for a veteran with seven years or more experience is up to $1,120,000. This was one of the significant improvements for players under the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement when these minimum salaries increased significantly as league revenues jumped in large part due to new stadiums and new media deals with television networks and streaming services.

Of course, for established starters, there’s much more at stake as they seek major salary increases when they become eligible for extensions or hit free agency. One such player is starting center Garrett Bradbury who enters his fourth and final season under contract after the Vikings did not exercise his fifth-year option as a former first-round pick.

Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Bradbury spoke to the media in minicamp and said he recognizes that he needs to be more consistent. That is especially the case in pass protection against stout defensive tackles such as the Packers’ Kenny Clark and ex-Bear/current Buc Akiem Hicks. Bradbury always has been athletic with the mobility to block downfield in the running game. But to improve his ability to anchor in pass protection, he is adding weight, and he told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press that he played last season at 295 pounds and is now between 305 and 310. 

“I’m feeling really good,” he told Tomasson. “I’m going to continue to work in the weight room…lifting and eating. Beef and ice cream. Just eating everything I can.”

Bradbury expanded on his new eating plan by saying to the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer, “Anyone can eat a bunch of pizza and put on some pounds, but trying to add it the right way, working with the right people. I’m naturally not a 350 pound guy, but that’s part of the job requirement, so that’s something I’m trying to hone in on and will reap the benefits from it this season.”

That would be great news for Coach Kevin O’Connell and offensive line coach Chris Kuper who have praised Bradbury’s grasping of the new offense and his communication skills and are excited to see him perform with full pads in training camp. 

If You Want to Wager on the 2022 Vikings, Now Is the Time.
Kevin O’Connell

Bradbury could face competition from free agent signees Chris Reed and Austin Schlottman if the coaches are not satisfied with his play in training camp and on into the early regular season. During OTAs and minicamp, Kuper said Bradbury has “been doing a great job and taken every rep with the ones.”

It will be a huge boon for the offense and QB Kirk Cousins if Bradbury has a much improved fourth season. The training camp battles in the trenches with the likes of Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Armon Watts will be a focal point for the coaches and training camp observers. Followed by the season opener against Clark if Bradbury secures the starting job as he expects. 

That nice bump in salary via free agency along with more consistent center play for the team will be the payoff if the season plays out as Bradbury hopes and if he achieves at a high level.    

Around the NFL Observations and more Vikings thoughts:

1.This is that somewhat silly time of year when media outlets put out their lists of best offenses, defenses, quarterbacks, etc. And make their preseason rankings of teams that are mostly based on where teams finished last season (the Vikings have generally been ranked in the No. 15-20 spot, but several analysts have predicted Minnesota could be one of the surprise teams to make a big leap forward as a playoff team).

I was amused to read a Fox Sports columnist who did not have the Vikings as one of the league’s top 10 offenses yet had Jacksonville ranked No. 9, which I‘d say is a big reach for them after a shaky rookie season for QB Trevor Lawrence. I would put the Vikings in the mix for such a top 10 offense spot going into the 2022 season, considering the team has a very good QB who may take a step up under an offensive head coach, excellent skill position players, a new offensive system in the Rams mode under O’Connell and hoped-for improvement along the O-line. But of course, all these June predictions are meaningless, and time will tell the true story.

2. The former Oklahoma kicker who the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent–Gabe Brkic– struggled in OTAs and minicamp and was released last week and then claimed on waivers by the Packers, who are hoping he can push Mason Crosby in camp after Crosby missed 11 kicks last year. Vikings incumbent kicker Greg Joseph missed some big kicks early in 2021 but kicked well over the second half of the season. The team will bring in someone for competition and another camp leg, but it looks like Joseph will be the guy, and he kicked well in the offseason camps. 

3. It’s always nice to see Viking players doing community work this time of year. Adam Thielen hosted a charity softball game with many teammates and coaches participating to raise money for the Thielen Foundation and its mission of supporting youth and various populations in need. 

C. J. Ham hosted his third annual youth football camp with proceeds going towards diversity scholarships in the Duluth area. 

And coming up on June 26, Armon Watts is donating his time and energy when he holds a free youth football camp in his hometown of St. Louis. These are three of the many Vikings players doing great community work.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl