TAMPA – With the NFL legal tampering period a week away, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still no closer in determining the fate of quarterback Jameis Winston or if they are, they’re keeping it close to the vest. Winston, the team’s former number one overall draft pick, can become an unrestricted free agent if the team doesn’t sign him.
With so much uncertainty, Bucs Report is looking into possible replacements in case Winston does not return. Today, let’s look into how Teddy Bridgewater fits into the Buccaneers’ system.
What has Bridgewater Accomplished?
First, the basics. Bridgewater is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, will be 28 in November and is a former first-round draft pick (32nd overall in 2014) of the Minnesota Vikings.
Bridgewater has thrown for 7,652 career yards with 38 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He has a completion rate of 65.2 percent and made the Pro Bowl in 2015. This came off of a Vikings 11-5 regular-season record and a berth into the playoffs. The Vikings lost the home Wild Card game to the Seattle Seahawks 10-9.
After missing the entire 2016 season with a knee injury suffered through a non-contact drill in training camp, he played one game with Minnesota in 2017 before moving to the New York Jets. His stay in New York was short as they traded Bridgewater to New Orleans where he has spent the last two years as Drew Brees’ backup.
Bridgewater has started six games in two seasons with the Saints, including five in 2019 where the Saints went 5-0 (more on that later). Overall, Bridgewater has a 22-12-0 record in 34 starts. The question is, will Bridgewater want to leave New Orleans to find a starting position?
If he does, there are a few teams that are looking for an above-average starter.
Bridgewater and Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay would be an interesting place because they would be swapping one uncertainty in Winston, for another in Bridgewater. The uncertainty is if he can be successful in an offense that doesn’t rely on the running game and likes to throw downfield often.
When he was starting with the Vikings, Bridgewater never threw for more than 3,231 yards in a season. This was primarily because Minnesota’s offense had Adrian Peterson in the backfield, thus Bridgewater didn’t have to carry the load.
With the Saints last year, Bridgewater threw for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also had a 67.9 completion rate. Now, the Saints do have a dynamic running back in Alvin Kamara. They open it up in the passing game a lot more than the Vikings did. Still, the passing was different. The Saints, with Bridgewater, used a quick passing game designed to get the ball out and to the playmakers.
Bridgewater is a mobile quarterback but doesn’t look for alleys and lanes to run/scramble. His moves are to buy him more time in the pocket so he can find a receiver. He’s also good at going through his progressions to find the open receiver. Still, the Saints didn’t ask Bridgewater to do too much as evident by his average of 153.8 yards passing per game. He also had just 16 completions of 20 yards or more and didn’t have a completion over 45 yards this season.
That would be OK for the Buccaneers, who have two Pro Bowl receivers as well as playmaking tight ends. Also, while they do have an offense that has designs of attacking defenses with the long ball, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that offense also has short and medium designs as well on any given pass play.
Can Bridgewater Carry the Load?
And let’s not forget about the money aspect. Bridgewater, according to Over the Cap, made $7.25 million this past season. Even if he would get $15 million, it’s less money than what Winston would make with a franchise tag.
Bridgewater has not been asked to carry a squad with his passing game. All indications are he is more than a decent passer. He does like to stay in the pocket, which is good and bad. He was sacked 83 times in his first two seasons in Minnesota. Winston was sacked 47 times in 2019.
The Buccaneers need better support in the running game and from the offensive line this year, regardless of who is behind center. But the Buccaneers may be just the perfect offense to finally unleash Bridgewater.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Bill Feig