1 Vikings Free Agent Could Sign a Huge Deal

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The Minnesota Vikings have many players entering free agency but only limited cap space to keep them in the building. Homegrown players like tight end Irv Smith Jr. and running back Alexander Mattison could be on their way out.

Both starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and late-season star Duke Shelley had expiring one-year deals, and the Vikings need to either keep them or find solid replacements. Peterson lately discussed his desire to stay in Minnesota. Other players could simply be too expensive to remain with the organization.

1 Vikings Free Agent Could Sign a Huge Deal

1 Vikings Free Agent Could Sign a Huge Deal
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Center Garrett Bradbury was the 2019 first-round draft pick of former general manager Rick Spielman. Players at his position rarely hear their names called in the first round. Bradbury was the highest-drafted center in two decades.

In part because of his high draft position, Bradbury was viewed as a disappointment entering the final year of his rookie contract. The center was always among the worst linemen in his first three seasons, especially in pass protection. Quarterback Kirk Cousins often had to deal with immediate interior pressure in his tenure with the Vikings, a devastating issue in the passing game that single-handedly ruined games.

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Many fans wanted first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to replace the veteran, but he kept his starting job without real competition. After the season, it’s fair to say that Adofo-Mensah was right. Bradbury played a wonderful season until a back injury kept him off the field for the final five regular season games before he returned against the Giants in the postseason and struggled against Pro Bowl most tackle Dexter Lawrence.

Bradbury’s PFF grades prove the eyeball test right:

  • 2019 – 57.8
  • 2020 – 61.4
  • 2021 – 60.2
  • 2022 – 67.5

The Vikings didn’t pick up the center’s fifth-year option last offseason, as that would’ve made him a top-five paid center. However, that’s why Bradbury will enter free agency, and it will be hard for the organization to keep him on the team.

After his best career season, the center will receive a huge payday in free agency. Spotrac, a website specializing in contracts and market values, views Bradbury’s annual value at $11,900,000, the sixth-highest-paid center in the league. The next contract is predicted to be a four-year deal for over $47,000,000.

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That seems outlandish at first, but it makes a lot of sense. Bradbury is an offensive lineman, and those are always in high demand. More than half of the league’s teams have atrocious offensive lines and try to sign upgrades. Therefore, teams have bidding wars for the top linemen every offseason in free agency.

A similar thing happened in 2017 when the OL-needy Vikings signed Riley Reiff, a solid but not great left tackle, for almost $60,000,000 for five seasons. Since then, salaries have increased a lot. It will be hard for the Vikings to match any of those offers, as the team is currently way over the cap limit.

The team can create some cap space by releasing some veterans and restructuring contracts, but the team has more holes to fill. It’s more likely at this point that Bradbury will wear a different jersey in 2023.

Replacing Bradbury in the draft could be a viable option. Good centers are usually available in the third and later rounds.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt