A 2019 first-round pick, Bradbury is in line to have his fifth-year option exercised or declined by May 3, ultimately determining whether Bradbury will play on an expiring contract and enter a prove-it fourth season in the NFL.
The North Carolina State product was deemed the biggest draft bust by Minnesota since 2015 for his poor pass-blocking abilities, often ending up in the lap of Kirk Cousins by any bull-rushing defensive lineman.
Bradbury’s shown little growth over his first three seasons, leaving Wolfson confident that the Vikings will not pick up Bradbury’s fifth-year option, which would escalate his cap hit from $4.1 million in 2022 to $13.2 million in 2023, per Pro Football Focus.
“A fifth-year option would be over $12 million. That deadline is a few weeks away, but we know that they’re not picking up Bradbury’s fifth-year option,” Wolfson said on the SKOR North podcast on April 5.
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Bradbury Poised to Enter Contract Year Despite Praise From O’Connell
If the Vikings let Bradbury’s fifth-year option deadline pass, the former No. 18 overall pick will enter a contract year in 2022.
Wolfson added that he doesn’t expect Bradbury to be a shoo-in for the starting center role again this season and expects some competition in training camp.
“I don’t think Garrett Bradbury is being handed anything in spite of some of Kevin O’Connell’s public comments,” Wolfson added. “I fully expect there to be healthy competition at the center position.”
O’Connell offered lip service for the incumbent starting center at the combine when assessing the offensive line he inherited from the Rick Spielman regime.
“Garrett Bradbury in the middle is what you look for from a core center from a standpoint of communicating,” O’Connell said at the combine, per Vikings. com. “I see a guy [with] really, really good movement skills. Obviously, a guy that was drafted really high for a reason. I can remember evaluating him through the process. [He] did a lot of really good things in college, and it’s just been a matter of finding the right fit for him and the right system.”
The differences in Bradbury’s role in O’Connell’s system could be limited as he installs a similar zone-running scheme that Minnesota has leaned on since the emergence of Dalvin Cook. The line Spielman built in the Cook era has leaned on smaller, nimble linemen like Bradbury to get out and block. And he’s done well in that respect, posting a 67.0 Pro Football Focus (PFF) run-blocking grade in 2021.
However, Bradbury ranked 38th in pass protection among 40-graded centers who played a minimum of 20% offensive snaps with a 43.7 pass-blocking grade last season.
PFF deemed Bradbury the Vikings’ biggest draft mistake of the past five years last offseason after a pair of lackluster seasons in the NFL.
Purple PTSD spoke with a former Minnesota lineman last offseason who believed Bradbury could turn his career around. However, 2021 did not prove to be a pivot year for Bradbury.
“I have no reason to think Bradbury will necessarily be a bust but he is playing very poorly right now. Bad footwork, no anchor in pass pro, off-balance constantly. The most shocking thing is the lack of awareness. Looks lost on the field a lot,” the lineman told Purple PTSD. “When I say bad footwork too, I mean it’s loose. He can move his feet, but he’s taking massive steps on reach blocks and play-action sets and making it so he literally can’t take a second step. Showed up over and over again against Tampa.”
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Vikings Doing’ Homework’ on Potential Competition at Center
Minnesota has begun inviting upcoming draft prospects to visit TCO Performance Center. One prospect who will visit this week, according to Wolfson, is Chatanooga interior offensive lineman Cole Strange, whom Minnesota also had a formal interview with at the combine.
“They’ve done a ton of homework on this kid, (Cole Strange). Formal interview at the combine. He is now in right now for a visit. I don’t think that’s a smokescreen. I think there’s genuine interest in this kid,” Wolfson said.
The Vikings also signed veterans Chris Reed and Jesse Davis, who figure to compete for the starting right guard job with Oli Udoh. Reed has experience playing center as well and could see reps in training camp.