General manager Ryan Poles signed former Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker to a two-year deal in March, essentially putting to bed the discussion of who would occupy the No. 2 spot at the position. Though as training camp approaches, it might be time to wake that conversation up.
Former Pro-Bowler and veteran starter Teddy Bridgewater remains a free agent after turning down an offer to join the Detroit Lions in April, and he is worth a moderate cap hit as an insurance policy behind Fields. Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Monday, May 29, listed Bridgewater as the best QB still on the market.
“Bridgewater hasn’t been a Pro Bowl starter since 2015, but he’s been serviceable when called upon. In 2021, Bridgewater started 14 games for the Denver Broncos and finished with a respectable 94.9 quarterback rating,” Knox wrote on May 26. “Bridgewater started two games for the Miami Dolphins last year but suffered a finger injury at the end of the season. That injury might be a factor, but Bridgewater should still find a home before training camp.”
Teddy Bridgewater Superior to Bears Backup QB P.J. Walker
Walker has fewer miles than Bridgewater but far less experience and success, rendering the latter the clearly superior option behind a quarterback in Fields who is an elite rusher of the football and therefore prone to a greater risk of injury.
At 28 years old, Walker has been in the league for three seasons and produced a record of 4-3 as a starter with five touchdowns and 11 interceptions across 15 appearances.
Bridgewater, 30, has started at least one game in every season he’s been healthy, save for one (2017), stretching back to his rookie campaign in 2014. He is 33-32 as an NFL starter with north of 15,000 yards passing, 75 touchdowns and 47 interceptions across 78 appearances, per Pro Football Reference. Bridgewater’s career completion percentage (66.4%) is nearly seven points better than Walker’s (57.5%) on 1,839 more attempts.
Third-string quarterback Nathan Peterman is 1-4 as a starter and has thrown 13 interceptions in 13 career appearances as opposed to four touchdowns. Undrafted free agent Tyson Bagent is the fourth QB on the roster.
Teddy Bridgewater Offers Bears Value as Backup QB, Even With P.J. Walker on Roster
Granted, this argument is better suited for March, before Walker signed on with the franchise. But as active as the Bears were in the draft and have been in free agency, the team still retains more than $32.5 million in available salary cap space.
Walker will earn $4.15 million over the next two seasons, while Bridgewater played last year in Miami on a $6.5 million deal. Chicago shouldn’t spend 20% of its remaining cash to add a fifth quarterback, but if the Bears can sign Bridgewater for one year in the range of $4-$4.5 million then there is a legitimate discussion to be had. That contract number is feasible with Bridgewater’s internal calendar flipping to 31 in November and the dark cloud of a busted finger hovering over his free agency.
The NFC North Division is arguably within reach of all four of its members, and a backup quarterback eking out a fourth-quarter win mid-season could be the difference between a team playing in mid-January or getting an early jump on prepping for 2024 free agency.