Sam Bradford

Cardinals’ Starting QB Job ‘Sam Bradford’s To Lose’

Despite Sam Bradford having not participated in as much of the Cardinals’ offseason program, Steve Wilks has determined the injury-prone veteran is his starter, barring something unexpected. The first-year coach said the Cards’ QB1 job is Bradford’s to lose, per Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com, then indicating Josh Rosen and Mike Glennon will compete for the backup position.

The Cardinals brought the ninth-year quarterback along slowly this offseason. Bradford has not played extensively since the 2016 season. He started twice for the 2017 Vikings but made it through just one game healthy.

This is the time where he needs to step it up,” Wilks said of Bradford’s return to action. “He understands and knows that. We’ve got to proceed forward with our timing. He’s ready.”

During Arizona’s offseason program, Wilks labeled this an open competition with the caveat Bradford was signed to start this season. He’s not wavering from that stance at this point. Bradford is expected to practice fully during camp. Wilks said he feels “great” about where Bradford’s at in his return from his latest bout of significant knee trouble.

I didn’t play a ton of football last year, so being able to get back in the flow of things, get back in rhythm and play again, and see how my knee reacts, see how my mind reacts out there on the field in practice,” Bradford said. “I think it’s important in these next couple of weeks to re-establish that rhythm.”

West Rumors: Gates, Cardinals, Chiefs

Less than a month remains until the Chargers break for training camp, and they have not yet made a move to fill the void Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear created. The Bolts have reached out to Antonio Gates, but the future Hall of Famer remains unattached. However, longtime Gates teammate LaDainian Tomlinson believes the 38-year-old pass-catcher is not interested in overtures from other teams, especially given the Chargers’ current predicament.

I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers,” said Tomlinson, who serves as a special assistant to the Chargers’ front office, on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via NFL.com). “I think he has the mind frame of, ‘If I go play, it’s gonna be for the Chargers. If it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.”

Gates has not been connected to other teams this offseason. The Chargers and Gates have been circling each other for weeks now. A reunion — one Tom Telesco is now open to — may come during camp in the event the Bolts are not pleased with their tight end situation. Virgil Green represents the only proven healthy tight end on the roster at this point.

Shifting to one of the teams that will start camp earlier because of the hiring of a new head coach, here’s what’s new out of the West divisions.

  • Based on the events of this offseason, Christian Kirk expects the first NFL passes he’ll catch to be from Sam Bradford. Despite the Cardinals easing their injury-plagued acquisition into work, Kirk’s gotten the impression Bradford will be the starter in Week 1. “To be honest, just with what the coaches have said and just the way it’s looking, I’m pretty sure Sam is going to start,” Kirk said during an NFL Total Access appearance (via NFL.com). Bradford’s Vikings run encountered a steep descent after Week 1 of last season, so recent Josh Rosen praise is probably relevant to the Cards’ short-term matters as well as their long-distance future.
  • One of the Cardinals who can expect more work in 2018 will be Ricky Seals-Jones, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Jurecki sees the second-year UDFA seeing far more targets compared to the 28 he saw last season, even with Jermaine Gresham still on the team. Seals-Jones caught 12 passes for 201 yards and three TDs in 2017.
  • Attempting to piece together a new-look secondary, the Chiefs are trying Steven Nelson as an outside cornerback. Nelson played almost exclusively outside during Kansas City’s offseason program, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m an outside corner,” he said, via Taylor. “I’ll just say that. It’s up to the coaches. I can play both, I’m versatile. But for this (summer), I’ve been outside.” Nelson previously functioned as K.C.’s slot corner in both 2016 and ’17, but with Kendall Fuller now in line to commandeer that role, the Chiefs are shuttling Nelson to the boundary in advance of his contract year. Nelson served as a full-time corner in 2016 before an injury-plagued 2017, and a Fuller-Nelson-David Amerson setup could be in the works for K.C. post-Marcus Peters. Not much depth exists behind this troika, so this would be the logical top three going into camp.

Extra Points: Hackenberg, Cardinals, Colts

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • Raiders coach Jon Gruden has never been a fan of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and he attribute quarterback Christian Hackenberg‘s recent release to the CBA’s limitations. “Everybody is an expert out there on Hackenberg and thinks he can’t play,” Gruden said (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “It’s unfortunate, this whole collective [bargaining agreement]. How do you develop a quarterback? I don’t know how you do it. … It is hard enough to get Connor Cook enough reps, let alone a fourth guy. It really depresses me how we can’t spend more time with these young quarterbacks, and it is really going to be an impactful situation on the NFL in the future.” The former second-round pick was released by the Raiders after having been acquired from the Jets several weeks ago.
  • First-round quarterback Josh Rosen is undoubtedly impressing in Cardinals‘ camp, but Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com believes Sam Bradford will still be the team’s starter heading into the season. The veteran has the upper hand when it comes to accuracy and throwing power, and while the team is planning on bringing him along slowly (Bradford suffered another knee injury last season), he’s expected to be atop the depth chart at the start of the season.
  • The Colts are curiously attempting to switch linebacker John Simon to defensive end. As Zak Keefer of IndyStar.com writes, this is an especially questionable move considering the team’s lack of depth at linebacker. So far, no one on the Colts sounds overly optimistic about the switch. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus didn’t give a glowing review of the 27-year-old, acknowledging that Simon lacks the size of a typical defensive end. “What you have to do is use your attributes, your strengths, use your get-off, all those things,” he explained. “He’ll figure it out as we go.”
  • Former Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage has been named the general manager of the Alliance of American Football league’s Phoenix franchise (via SBJ’s Liz Mullen on Twitter). The 53-year-old was also the Browns general manager between 2005 and 2008.

NFC Notes: Bradford, Cardinals, Breeland, Rodgers-Cromartie, Giants

Sam Bradford‘s tenure as the Cardinals’ unquestioned starting quarterback didn’t last long. Just a month after signing a one-year $20MM deal with an option for a second year, the Cardinals selected Josh Rosen 10th overall. The move suggested that the Cardinals don’t view Bradford as their longterm answer, and see him more as a bridge quarterback/stopgap option.

If Bradford plays well though, it will be hard for the Cardinals to turn to Rosen and Bradford has certainly shown he’s capable of playing at a high level when he’s able to stay healthy. Bradford’s health may end up being the determining factor for when Rosen sees the field, and Bradford is apparently now beginning to ramp up his on-field work according to Mike Jurecki (Twitter link).

Jurecki reports that Bradford “will be able to participate more in the mandatory minicamp” this week and that as long as Bradford is healthy he thinks he’ll be the week one starter, noting that Bradford’s “accuracy has been impressive during workouts.”

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has made it clear he still wants to play, and told reporters at Landon Collins‘ charity softball game that he “knows where he will sign before training camp”, according to Paul Schwartz of the NY Post (Twitter link). Rodgers-Cromartie said he didn’t want to do OTAs anywhere and told the assembled Giants writers that “Y’all might see me again.” Schwartz added in a follow-up tweet that he thought Rodgers-Cromartie was referring to playing against the Giants this upcoming season, perhaps for a division rival.
  • Despite a recent report that the Cardinals wanted to re-evaluate cornerback Bashaud Breeland in a “few weeks”, Jurecki tweets that “as of today, he’s not on the radar” for the Cardinals. Breeland agreed to a three-year, $24MM deal with the Panthers earlier this offseason, but the deal was nullified due to a foot injury Breeland suffered.
  • In case you missed it, Odell Beckham Jr.’s ankle may be what is causing the Giants to move slowly on an extension for their star wide receiver.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Bradford, Raiders, Chiefs

The Cardinals gave Sam Bradford a hefty deal to be their starting quarterback in 2018, but that’s no longer a certainty after their selection of UCLA’s Josh Rosen in the first round.

We got Sam to be our starting quarterback and I would still say that is the case,” coach Steve Wilks said when asked if Bradford will be the starter (via Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic). “I’m very excited about Josh … what he can bring. Every position is open for competition.

The selection of Rosen marked the first time in 12 years the Cardinals drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds. They also gave up third- and fifth-round picks in order to advance to the No. 10 pick for him.

Clearly, the Cardinals believe that the future is very bright for Rosen, but he is also regarded by some as the most NFL-ready of any QB from this draft class. For Rosen and Arizona, the future could be the present.

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • The Raiders converted $7.085MM center Rodney Hudson’s 2018 base salary into a bonus, creating $5.668MM in cap space, a league source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The move had to be made in order to make room for the Raiders’ draft class as well as the acquisition of wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
  • Due to the Raiders already paying Seth Roberts his $2MM roster bonus, the slot target’s $2.25MM 2018 salary is fully guaranteed. Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets there are also incentives in Roberts’ deal — $150K for 45 receptions and another $150K if he eclipses his career-high mark (43 grabs last season) by a bigger margin and reaches 65 — and adds that Roberts may not be easy to move despite this draft featuring a less-than-stellar wideout contingent. But Oakland is trying to do so. Roberts has been Oakland’s primary slot man since the 2015 season, but his work has been consistently maligned by Pro Football Focus.
  • The Chiefs did not have a first-round pick on Thursday, but they did try to trade into the back end of the first round, as Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star writes. “I was (tempted),” GM Brett Veach said. “We make calls. But if you were to ask me, what were the odds of getting into round one, I would have said they were very low. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. We certainly had dialogue from (picks) 27 to 32. But it had to make sense for us, both now and in the future. It never got close.” The Chiefs traded their first-rounder to the Bills for the right to select Patrick Mahomes last year.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

West Rumors: Raiders, Bradford, Donald

Although the Raiders have signed a slew of veterans in free agency this year, they are still in need of help at linebacker. And they may be hoping a run on quarterbacks helps bring Roquan Smith to them at No. 10. They may not be willing to trade up for the Georgia-honed linebacker, however.

Roquan Smith is the guy. I don’t know that they would be willing to give away additional picks later to go up and get him, but he’s the guy they want,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said, via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “… There’s a lot of love for Roquan Smith in that building.”

While NaVorro Bowman has been connected to the Raiders for months as a re-sign candidate, he remains a free agent. The Silver and Black signed Tahir Whitehead, and he’ll likely start at one of their second-level spots, with Kyle Wilber and Emmanuel Lamur in line to supply depth. But a long-term cog looks to be on the agenda as this draft approaches. The Raiders have not selected a first- or second-round linebacker who plays off the ball during the Reggie McKenzie regime, with Rolando McClain (Round 1, 2010) being the most recent such investment. Of course, McKenzie ceded some power to Jon Gruden this offseason.

However, the 49ers are a possible Smith suitor as well — with Reuben Foster facing possible prison time and Malcolm Smith coming off a season-ending injury — and met with Smith this week. He also visited with the Colts and Bears, each holding top-eight picks, in April.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions:

  • McShay’s also heard Tremaine Edmunds and Vita Vea‘s names linked to the Raiders. With four quarterbacks possibly set to go off the board before the Silver and Black’s selection window opens, they could have their pick of these three prospects.
  • While the Cardinals are going to ease Sam Bradford into action this offseason, Steve Wilks likes the early form the would-be starter is in. “I didn’t see anything (bad) out of his knee. Not one thing,” Wilks said, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Nothing is wrong with his knee. I thought he threw the ball well, ball-handling, he handed the ball off, rolled out, bootleg, all those things. He’s doing everything we ask him to do. We just want to make sure we don’t put too much on him too soon.” Bradford wore a brace on his troublesome left knee early in the week before shifting to a sleeve, per Urban.
  • Sean McVay is encouraged by the early dialogue the Rams are having with Aaron Donald. The team did not expect Donald, a holdout until September last year, to report to the first phase of its offseason program as he seeks a landscape-altering contract. “We feel good about the dialogue that has existed,” McVay said this week. “This is a voluntary offseason program with where we’re at. You know he’s a guy who’s going to work hard on his off-time, and that’s kind of where we’re at.” The Rams sound like they’re on the verge of authorizing a record contract for the reigning defensive player of the year.
  • Maurice Hurst visited the Raiders on Monday, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Adding the Raiders are “hell bent” on strengthening their interior pass rush, which has been a trouble spot for a while now, Bair identifies the Michigan defensive tackle as a candidate for Oakland’s Round 1 choice it the team trades down from its No. 10 slot.
  • Foster’s in a world of trouble for an alleged domestic violence incident earlier this year, facing three felony charges, but the 49ers linebacker saw a misdemeanor charge dropped this week. Foster won’t face a charge for the possession of a large-capacity ammunition magazine, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office announced (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).

Baker Mayfield To Meet With Seven Teams

Baker Mayfield‘s April figures to be busy. The Oklahoma signal caller will meet with the Browns, Bills, Jets, Giants, Dolphins, Broncos, and Cardinals, Robert Klemko of The MMQB reports. 

The Giants will sit down with Mayfield before the Jets, Manish Mehta of the Daily News adds. He’ll meet with the G-Men on April 8 and 9 before continuing his pre-draft tour with the Jets on April 9 and 10. The Jets conducted a private workout with Mayfield in Oklahoma on March 24, fueling speculation that he could be among the QBs in consideration for them at No. 3 overall.

Mayfield was last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but some evaluators question whether he has the height to succeed at the next level. There are also some character concerns thanks to his actions during games against Ohio State and Kansas and a public intoxication arrest.

Most of the teams in this bunch were expected to show interest in Mayfield, but the Dolphins and Broncos are not obvious fits for him given the presence of Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum, respectively. The Cardinals make more sense for Mayfield since Sam Bradford is not necessarily a long-term answer under center and the Bills are also a logical fit since they are not completely locked in on A.J. McCarron as their starter for 2018. Unlike the Dolphins and Cardinals, the Bills have ample ammo to move up for Mayfield with the Nos. 12 and No 22 picks in their possession.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Contract Details: Cousins, Bradford, Poe

Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.

Sam Bradford To Sign With Cardinals

The quarterback dominoes continue to fall, with the latest representing another opportunity for Sam Bradford.

Bradford has agreed to terms with the Cardinals, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). This stands to take another team out of the Kirk Cousins mix, one that’s believed to be concluding with the Vikings landing this year’s free agent prize.

It’s a two-year deal for Bradford, Peter Schrager of NFL.com reports (on Twitter), and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets this agreement will be worth $18MM per year. Incentives could take it to $20MM per season, per Somers. However, Schefter and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport report (Twitter links) this is a one-year deal worth $20MM with an option for a second season. Schefter reports $15MM is guaranteed in this contract. Some form of injury protection exists within this deal, Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com tweets.

With Cousins likely landing in Minnesota and Case Keenum set to trek to Denver, the Cardinals were lower on options. They were believed to have inquired about Tyrod Taylor as well before the Browns acquired him. But Bradford will now head to a fourth NFC team and potentially receive an opportunity to be a Week 1 starter again.

The Cardinals were linked to Mike Glennon earlier on Tuesday, but that could well have been as a possible backup. As of now, no quarterbacks reside on Arizona’s roster after Carson Palmer‘s retirement and Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert‘s contracts expiring.

Given his injury history, Bradford does not bring much stability. But he did play 15 games for the 2016 Vikings and suited up for 14 contests with the 2015 Eagles. While Bradford set a then-NFL record with a 71.6 percent completion rate in his first Minnesota season, during a season that saw him throw 20 touchdown passes compared to five interceptions, his tenure was marred by nagging knee trouble in his second.

Bradford played in just two games for the Vikings last season. He torched the Saints in a Week 1 win but then experienced knee pain that shelved him for several weeks, and the former No. 1 overall pick could not make it through a second game — being benched for Keenum — and did not play again last season. Bradford also missed all of the 2014 season and nine games for the 2013 Rams due to knee trouble.

This is a slight gamble for the Cardinals, but without the kind of cap space the Vikings or Jets had, a Cousins union looked less likely.

This takes another veteran option out of the mix for the Jets. But Teddy Bridgewater remains unaffiliated, and Gang Green was believed to be viewing the former Vikings first-rounder as its optimal bridge plan. This also leaves A.J. McCarron without a surefire landing spot. The Bengals backup had sought an opportunity to become a starter, but several franchises have moved or are believed to be moving in other directions.

As for Bradford, he’s still just 30 despite experiencing a litany of injuries. He will likely be asked to take the Cardinals’ reins in the near future while the franchise attempts to bring in a long-term successor in the draft. Picking at No. 15 this year could complicate that.

It’s quite possible all four top quarterbacks in this year’s prospect pool could be long gone by the time Arizona’s selection window opens. The Browns, Giants, Jets, Bills and possibly the Broncos represent potential quarterback landmines for the Cardinals’ quest, and after the Bills’ Cordy Glenn trade, all five of these franchises pick in front of Arizona. The Cardinals could target a passer in the second round, however, and may turn to the 2019 draft.

[RELATED: Cardinals Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.