The trade of Teddy Bridgewater from the New York Jets to the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday afternoon provided an ample batch of subplots. Just like that, the Jets revealed third overall draft pick Sam Darnold will open the season as their starting quarterback, and the Saints took a possible first step in finding Drew Brees’s successor. On the basis of that alone, it’s a fascinating little trade.
But it’s most interesting to consider what the deal says about how the Saints view themselves right now, this season, and what lessons they learned from last year. What 2017 showed them, apparently, is this: Their roster is good enough to win the Super Bowl, and they are at least one contending team intent on becoming year’s Philadelphia Eagles instead of this year’s Green Bay Packers.
The Saints had shown signs they are all-in for 2018, in Brees’s age-39 season, before Wednesday. During this year’s draft, they traded two first-round picks, including next year’s, to move up and take Marcus Davenport, a coveted pass rusher from Texas San Antonio. The Saints’ 2017 season ended with one of the most wrenching losses in league history — a last-play, whiffed-tackle-turned-touchdown in the divisional round against Minnesota. They might have been a fluke away from winning the Super Bowl, and they are willing to sacrifice the future to take another run this year.
Bridgewater fits into those short-term plans, too. Last year proved how important a figure like Bridgewater can be for a contender. When the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers, who became the league’s highest-paid player on Wednesday, in Week 6, their season derailed in the hands of untested backup Brett Hundley (who was dealt to Seattle on Wednesday). When the Eagles lost Carson Wentz in Week 14, they turned to Nick Foles, who had started 36 games and once threw 27 touchdown passes in a season. You may have heard: Foles led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, winning the game’s MVP award.
Just because a backup quarterback won the Super Bowl last season doesn’t mean a trend has started. But the fates of the Eagles and Packers last season proved how important a backup quarterback can be, especially to a team in position to win a Super Bowl. The Saints have built their team for 2018, but behind Brees they had only Tom Savage, Taysom Hill and J.T. Barrett, none of whom could be counted on to win games as a starter. Adding Bridgewater, who has performed well, ensures one injury won’t completely unravel their hopes.
The Saints reportedly paid a steep price, sending a third-round pick to the Jets. But Foles’s performance last season may have enhanced the value of backup quarterbacks for contenders. The Saints may have overpaid, but at least they think it did.
Bridgewater, a former first-rounder noted for his leadership and accuracy, last played meaningful snaps in 2015, when he led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance. Bridgewater suffered a gruesome leg injury in practice a week before the 2016 season. He impressed during the preseason, and his comeback will continue with a franchise in need of a long-term future at the position.
The Jets signed Bridgewater to a one-year, $6 million deal. Essentially they bought a third-round pick for a $500,000 signing bonus, a move that Darnold’s impressive camp allowed them to swing. It’s a great move for New York’s future. It’s an illuminating move for the Saints’ present, and for what a backup quarterback means after last season.
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