Garrett Bradbury

NFC North Rumors: Bears, Bradbury, Lions

The Bears made waves recently when they announced the addition of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren as the new president and CEO in Chicago. The addition resulted in a number of questions about Warren’s responsibilities and how they will compare to those of general manager Ryan Poles. While Poles will report to Warren in the grand scheme of things, the Bears will leave the football aspect of the team to Poles, allowing Warren to focus on business, according to Adam Jahns of The Athletic.

This is similar to Warren’s past roles in the NFL, specifically his time in Minnesota as chief operating officer. Warren worked hand-in-hand with former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for several years before Warren moved on to the Big Ten. Spielman told Jahns that he operated with Warren in a similar manner to how the Bears plan to operate, with Spielman focused on football and Warren on business. The only difference in Chicago is that, while Spielman and Warren both reported to Vikings’ ownership, Poles is now reporting directly to Warren.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC North concerning some likely offseason transactions:

  • Vikings center Garrett Bradbury struggled as a first-round selection up until this season. In his first three years of NFL football, Bradbury’s best season in 2020 saw him rank 25th out of 36 graded centers, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The other two years saw Bradbury rank 28th in 2019 and 29th in 2021, leading to Minnesota declining his fifth-year option heading into this season. After a hot start to the season that considerably raised his stock as a pending free agent, Bradbury iterated that he loved his team and preferred to stay in Minnesota. Three and a half months later and Bradbury finished off his hot season for a career year that saw him rank 11th out of 38 graded centers. With free agency on the horizon, Bradbury was asked again and, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he reiterated his desires to re-sign with the team that drafted him.
  • Unlike Bradbury, Lions guard Jonah Jackson is fully locked into his starting position at left guard heading into his contract year. If he has his way, though, the 25-year-old won’t even sniff free agency. Jackson told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he is fully open to remaining with the Lions long-term. “I would retire in Detroit,” Jackson said. “I would love to be a Lion forever. I love the city.” Jackson isn’t expected to earn a top guard contract but still may fetch a significant deal worth $13-15MM. He made sure to clarify that if it doesn’t happen, he doesn’t intend to hold out. “If it doesn’t (happen), I’m the same guy, the same 73 who showed up for work every day from COVID Year 1 to now…If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
  • Another player who is getting ahead of free agency, Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney signed with a new agency in advance of potential contract extension negotiations, according to the official Twitter account of Athletes First sports agency. Mooney came back down to reality this year after a stellar 2021 season, partially due to injuries that kept him out of the final five games of the season. Mooney still has the ability to be a 1,000-yard receiver like he was a year ago and should benefit from another year of experience and improvement for quarterback Justin Fields. Taking action with his representation could indicate that Mooney is ready to start working towards a long-term extension before a contract year next season.

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury To Return For Wild-Card Round

The Vikings’ offensive line will be in much better shape from a health perspective when they host the Giants later today compared to recent weeks. Starting center Garrett Bradbury will return to the lineup today, as detailed by Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The 27-year-old had been sidelined since Week 13 due to a lower back injury. The issue was sufficient to keep him from being able to suit up on its own, but as Tomasson notes, a minor car accident Bradbury was involved in shortly afterwards aggravated the injury. Fortunately for he and the team, however, he has recovered in time for the postseason.

The former first-rounder did not live up to expectations during the first three seasons of his career, leading Minnesota to decline his fifth-year option. Bradbury entered the season with questions surrounding his status as the team’s starter in the middle of the o-line, but he played nearly every snap this year prior to being shelved by the back issue. His improved play in year four was reflected by a career-best PFF grade of 70.2, the 10th-highest mark at the position.

In Bradbury’s absence, the Vikings had turned to Austin Schlottmann at center until he went down with a season-ending injury. That left Minnesota with third-stringer Chris Reed to close out the regular season and, if not for Bradbury’s return, to start today against New York. Now, though, the NC State product will be available to line up against Dexter Lawrence and the Giants’ defensive front after he practiced in full Thursday and Friday.

“[Bradbury] demonstrated a complete readiness to play this weekend,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said in advance of this afternoon’s contest. “I’m really excited about having Garrett back in there. He’s been huge for us all season long.”

Elsewhere on the offensive line, the Vikings received another piece of good news with swing tackle Blake Brandel being activated from IR yesterday. That will allow him to start at right tackle, the spot vacated by Brian O’Neill‘s partial Achilles tear. Oli Udoh had been playing in that spot, but Brandel had gotten the nod for three straight games before his IR stint. Overall, Minnesota should head into today’s game with better confidence in their front five than they had in recent contests.

Vikings Place RT Brian O’Neill, OL Austin Schlottmann On IR

JANUARY 4: O’Neill is believed to have suffered a partially torn Achilles, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The fifth-year tackle will miss the rest of the season. The partial tear is in addition to the calf injury O’Connell confirmed he sustained, per Andrew Krammer and Randy Johnson of the Star Tribune. O’Neill will undergo surgery.

Coming into this year, O’Neill had never missed an NFL game due to injury. He appears likely to miss some of the Vikings’ 2023 offseason program as well, with O’Connell adding he is hopeful a recovery before the start of next season will commence.

JANUARY 3: The Vikings lost two offensive line starters during a blowout loss to the Packers on Sunday, and both may be done for the season. The team placed right tackle Brian O’Neill and interior O-lineman Austin Schlottmann on IR on Tuesday, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets.

O’Neill left Sunday’s game due to a calf injury Kevin O’Connell called “pretty significant,” while Schlottmann — who had been filling in for injured center Garrett Bradbury — suffered a fractured fibula, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. While it can be safely assumed Schlottmann is done for the season, Tuesday’s transaction will sideline O’Neill for at least four games. Only a Vikings Super Bowl LVII trip could extend the veteran tackle’s season.

The team added former Rams guard Bobby Evans to the practice squad and signed veteran center Greg Mancz to its 53-man roster, but the losses of two starters — particularly O’Neill, who has been a Vikings first-stringer since the early part of his 2018 rookie season — stands to sting for a team that has relied on close wins to reach this perch. The Packers preyed on the Vikes’ vulnerable front in Week 17, a result that knocked the Vikings off their long-held No. 2 spot in the NFC. Minnesota now holds the conference’s No. 3 seed.

Minnesota’s offensive line features five homegrown first- or second-round picks, separating it from the rest of the league this season. Only one of those players, however, is signed to a long-term veteran contract. The Vikings extended O’Neill in 2021, giving the former second-rounder a five-year, $92.5MM extension. He has been a key part of Minnesota’s surge this season. Pro Football Focus rates both Vikings tackles — O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw — in the top seven at the position this season. O’Neill, who has started 75 games, checks in at No. 7.

Signed as a free agent after beginning his career in Denver, Schlottmann has become a key presence in Minnesota since Bradbury’s injury. Schlottmann started each of the Vikes’ past four games, matching his career-high total. Losing both he and O’Neill in the same game forced major adjustments to a line that had been healthy for most of this season.

A lower-back injury has sidelined Bradbury. While the former first-round center missed two games due to the injury sustained on the field, a December car accident affected his recovery. Bradbury said the minor accident caused his back to tighten up. O’Connell said Bradbury’s earliest return window will be in the playoffs, via ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert (on Twitter). Bradbury has not practiced since the Dec. 17 crash.

For now, offseason addition Chris Reed — a former Colts spot starter — is set to snap to Kirk Cousins. Fourth-year blocker Oli Udoh, a full-time guard starter for the 2021 Vikings, slid to tackle to replace O’Neill in Green Bay. A 2019 third-round pick, Evans made 12 starts for the Rams on his rookie contract. But the team did not view him as a regular option; its slew of O-line injuries this season led to four Evans starts. The Rams waived Evans this season. Mancz has made 32 career starts, most of them coming with the Texans.

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury Wants To Remain With Team

The Vikings declined center Garrett Bradbury‘s fifth-year option in May, thereby making 2022 a platform year for the NC State product. Bradbury’s play through the first five games of the current campaign has considerably raised his free agent stock, though he wants to remain in Minnesota for the long haul, as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes.

“Absolutely,” Bradbury said when asked if he hopes to stay with the Vikings. “I love this team, I love the offensive line here, I love the coaches. We’ll let that work itself out in the spring because I can’t do anything about it this week.”

Bradbury expressed those same sentiments back in June, but at the time, it seemed unlikely that the team would want to continue what had been a disappointing relationship. After all, Bradbury struggled mightily with his pass-blocking over his first three years in the league, which is why the Vikings decided against exercising the option that would have kept him under club control through the 2023 season. Even in August, Bradbury’s hold on his starting job was reportedly less than secure.

However, Bradbury enters the team’s Week 6 contest as the ninth-best center in the league in the eyes of Pro Football Focus, which has assigned him a strong 72.0 pass-blocking grade and has charged him with one sack. Part of the improvement stems from the 10 pounds of muscle that Bradbury added over the offseason, which he says has helped him in his battles with opposing nose tackles. The fact that he is surrounded by other quality O-linemen also helps.

When asked if he sees Bradbury as a long-term anchor in the middle of the line, head coach Kevin O’Connell was somewhat noncommittal, saying, “I’m a big fan of Garrett, how he’s playing, how he projects in our offense. I know [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins] feels great having him in there as well as those other four linemen. So I love where Garrett’s at right now. He’s just got to keep playing at the level that he’s playing at, which has been pretty darn good.”

Of course, if Bradbury maintains his current level of performance throughout the season, the club would almost certainly want him back. The league’s top pivots are earning in the $10MM-$14MM range in terms of AAV, and if Minnesota had exercised the fifth-year option, Bradbury would have been owed a fully-guaranteed $13.2MM in 2023. So even if the Vikings ultimately need to pay Bradbury at a top-of-the-market rate or something close to it, they will still be in better shape than they would have been otherwise, as they will at least be able to flatten out his 2023 cap hit with a multi-year pact.

For now, the club is 4-1 and at the top of the NFC North, and its O-line play is a big reason for the early success.

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury In Danger Of Losing Starting Job

Vikings center Garrett Bradbury is in danger of losing his starting job, as Mark Craig of the Star Tribune writes. Although Bradbury has handled all of the first-team reps in training camp thus far, head coach Kevin O’Connell admitted that the NC State product does not have the gig sewn up.

That is largely a result of Bradbury’s struggles in pass protection. Over his first three years in the league, his Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grades have ranked last, last, and second-to-last among centers. He is more accomplished as a run blocker, and O’Connell made sure to mention Bradbury’s running game prowess while acknowledging the need for him to improve in pass pro.

“[Pass-blocking is] where we’re challenging him each and every time; technique, technique,” O’Connell said. “He’s got a good anchor when he’s got his feet underneath him. I think he has the strength to hold up. I think he has the technique to hold up. I think we can do some things with how we protect to try to limit some of the [one-on-one] situations by how we scheme up certain fronts.”

Bradbury missed four games in 2021 but has otherwise started every game for the Vikings since turning pro in 2019. Selected in the first round (No. 18 overall) of that year’s draft, his struggles in protecting the quarterback forced Minnesota to decline his fifth-year option for 2023, thereby turning 2022 into a platform year.

As such, Bradbury’s earning power hangs in the balance. A marked improvement in his game could lead to a lucrative multi-year pact, whereas a demotion could see him hit free agency after having spent a full season as a reserve and with major questions marks about his viability as a starting pivot.

If he ends up ceding his starting role, free agent acquisitions Austin Schlottmann (seven career starts) and Chris Reed (29 career starts) could fill the void, although Reed has never played a regular season game at center. Schlottman has been working as the second-team center.

O’Connell believes that Reed can handle a center’s duties, but one would imagine that his preference would be to have Bradbury step up and seize the job. He has yet to do that, having been burned repeatedly by the Vikings’ interior pass rush in the first several weeks of camp.

2023 NFL Fifth-Year Option Results

Monday marked the deadline for NFL clubs to officially pick up their options on 2019 first-rounders. Fifth-year option seasons are no longer just guaranteed for injury — they’re now fully guaranteed, which makes these decisions a little tougher for teams.

Nineteen players had their options exercised, a tick up from 14 last year. Here’s the full rundown:

1. QB Kyler Murray, Cardinals – Exercised ($29.7MM)
2. DE Nick Bosa, 49ers: Exercised ($17.9MM)
3. DE Quinnen Williams, Jets: Exercised ($11.5MM)
4. DE Clelin Ferrell, Raiders: Declined ($11.5MM)
5. LB Devin White, Buccaneers: Exercised ($11.7MM)
6. QB Daniel Jones, Giants: Declined ($22.4MM)
7. DE Josh Allen, Jaguars: Exercised ($11.5MM)
8. TE T.J. Hockenson, Lions: Exercised ($9.4MM)
9. DT Ed Oliver, Bills: Exercised ($10.8MM)
10. LB Devin Bush, Steelers: Declined ($10.9MM)
11. OT Jonah Williams, Bengals: Exercised ($12.6MM)
12. LB Rashan Gary, Packers: Exercised ($10.9MM)
13. DT Christian Wilkins, Dolphins: Exercised ($10.8MM)
14. G Chris Lindstrom, Falcons: Exercised ($13.2MM)
15. QB Dwayne Haskins:
16. DE Brian Burns, Panthers: Exercised ($16MM)
17. DT Dexter Lawrence, Giants: Exercised ($10.8MM)
18. C Garrett Bradbury, Vikings: Declined ($13.2MM)
19. DT Jeffery Simmons, Titans: Exercised ($10.8MM)
20. TE Noah Fant, Seahawks: Exercised ($6.9MM; originally drafted by Broncos)
21. S Darnell Savage, Packers: Exercised ($7.9MM)
22. OT Andre Dillard, Eagles: Declined ($12.6MM)
23. OT Tytus Howard, Texans: Exercised ($13.2MM)
24. RB Josh Jacobs, Raiders: Declined ($8MM)
25. WR Marquise Brown, Cardinals: ($13.4MM; originally drafted by Ravens)
26. DE Montez Sweat, Commanders: Exercised ($11.5MM)
27. S Johnathan Abram, Raiders: Declined ($7.9MM)
28. DE Jerry Tillery, Chargers: Declined ($11.5MM)
29. DE L.J. Collier, Seahawks: Declined ($11.5MM)
30. CB Deandre Baker — N/A (released by Giants)
31. OT Kaleb McGary, Falcons: Declined ($13.2MM)
32. WR N’Keal Harry, Patriots: Declined ($12.4MM)

Vikings Decline C Garrett Bradbury’s Fifth-Year Option

As expected, the Vikings will be making center Garrett Bradbury an impending free agent. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter), the Vikings won’t pick up the offensive lineman’s fifth-year option. We heard late last month that this was the likely outcome.

Bradbury would have been eligible to earn a $13.2MM 2023 salary via the fifth-year option. As our own Sam Robinson recently pointed out, because all offensive linemen are grouped together under the franchise tag system, the foundation for the fifth-year option setup, centers and guards see their option salaries spike because of tackles’ higher wages.

As a result, the Vikings thought that $13MM+ salary was too high for a player of Bradbury’s caliber. However, their decision to decline the fifth-year option doesn’t necessarily mean the player isn’t in their future plans.

Bradbury was the 18th-overall pick in the 2019 draft, and he’s started each of his 45 games since entering the NFL. Pro Football Focus hasn’t been particularly fond of his performance in the NFL, and following a 2021 season where they ranked Minnesota’s O-line 23rd, the site had Bradbury as the second-worst player on that unit.

Vikings Expected To Pass On C Garrett Bradbury’s Fifth-Year Option

The Vikings are planning to make 2022 a contract year for Garrett Bradbury. They are expected to decline the fifth-year option on their center’s deal, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson.

Because all offensive linemen are grouped together under the franchise tag system, the foundation for the fifth-year option setup, centers and guards see their option salaries spike because of tackles’ higher wages. Despite having not made a Pro Bowl in three seasons, Bradbury would be eligible for a $13.2MM 2023 salary.

It is not surprising to see the Vikings punt on that payment, though this should not necessarily be viewed as the team shutting down the prospect of a long-term future with the 2019 first-round pick. A Day 1 starter for the Vikings, Bradbury has lined up with the team’s first-string offensive line 45 times. Grading Minnesota’s O-line 23rd last season, Pro Football Focus assigned Bradbury the second-worst grade on that unit. His 2019 or ’20 grades did not place him near the top of the center position, either, certainly raising the stakes for his upcoming contract campaign.

Minnesota has just one high-end veteran contract (right tackle Brian O’Neill‘s) on its O-line, and this Bradbury decision will allow the Vikings to continue keeping costs low up front for the time being. The team has left tackle Christian Darrisaw and left guard Ezra Cleveland signed to rookie deals. If the Vikings are iffy on Bradbury’s long-term future, the upcoming draft becomes an avenue to address the spot.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/16/21

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Vikings Sign First Round Pick Garrett Bradbury

The Vikings’ draft class is almost wrapped up. On Tuesday, the Vikings announced the signing of first-round center Garrett Bradbury

Bradbury, a North Carolina State product, was taken with the No. 18 overall pick last month. In his final year on campus, Bradbury won the Dave Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the best center in college football. The converted tight end is believed to be NFL-ready thanks to his core strength and blocking IQ.

With Bradbury signed, the Vikings have just one straggler left in Air Force long snapper Austin Cutting. Cutting, a seventh-round pick, reported to rookie minicamp after signing an injury protection agreement instead of his rookie contract. Cutting says he’s not signing “out of respect to letting the Air Force eventually give a final decision of if he can play in 2019.”

Here’s the full rundown of Minnesota’s frosh class: