I’ve been among those who have articulated criticisms of Garrett Bradbury.
For three seasons, Vikings fans grew accustomed to seeing the first-round center get pushed back in pass protection. Often struggling to anchor, Bradbury allowed pressure up the middle. Kirk Cousins thus had a tough time at various points of stepping up in the pocket.
At one point, Bradbury was even benched. It was a pretty stunning move from Mike Zimmer, but it helped underscore some of the center’s struggles.
Thankfully, things look considerably better in 2022. Credit to Kevin O’Connell and OL coach Chris Kuper. Even more importantly, credit to Garrett Bradbury for overcoming some poor play earlier in his career.
Bradbury is a top-10 center on PFF. His 70.2 grade is easily the best of his career, and it puts him in the 10th spot out of 38 who are considered. The 27-year-old center has been in 12 games this year, piling up 810 snaps. He only has 2 penalties called on him during that time.
A recent piece on Spotrac runs through several notable free agents per team. Somewhat surprisingly, Bradbury gets the largest contract projection for Minnesota: a 4-year commitment that comes to a total of $48 million. Such a deal would likely front load some of the guarantees, allowing the team to have some flexibility as things proceed.
Of course, all of this is mere conjecture. The offseason hasn’t arrived yet, and that’s when the majority of these deals get worked out. If, however, Spotrac is in the right neighborhood with their projection, then it’ll be tough for Minnesota to bring their center back. The team currently has negative cap space for 2023, so there will need to be some money shuffling before any additions can be made.
Only 8 centers average $10 million or more per season. The $12 million per year is thus a notable guess since it’d be an indication that a team believes Garrett Bradbury truly is among the league’s top 10 centers. At that price, the expectation would be that Bradbury would be a difference maker. One would looking for elite run blocking and continued ability to make a difference in the screen game. Being able to slow down powerful DTs in pass pro, moreover, will be a necessity.
In the end, it’s tough to know what kind of deal Bradbury will get. Things have gone really well in O’Connell’s offense, so it’s possible that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will look to keep the center in Minnesota. The Vikings don’t have a clear replacement already on the roster.
The aforementioned contract projection piece guesses that TE Irv Smith Jr. will get a 2-year, $20 million deal, CB Patrick Peterson will get a 1-year, $6.5 million deal, RB Alexander Mattison a 1-year, $1.25 million deal, and DT Dalvin Tomlinson will get a 3-year, $26 million deal.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but we should note that there are still several games to be played. What occurs in those games will influence what kind of deals the players will get during the offseason.
Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap and Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.