After an exciting draft weekend, the Minnesota Vikings have gone quiet with an important deadline on Monday.
The Vikings are expected to let center Garrett Bradbury‘s fifth-year option deadline pass without action on May 2, leaving the 2019 first-round pick on the final year of his rookie contract with plenty left to prove.
“As expected, the Vikings on Monday declined the fifth-year contract option of center Garrett Bradbury, putting him in line become a free agent next March,” Pioneer Press beat reporter Chris Tomasson wrote.
Bradbury on the 2022 cap sheet at $4.1 million in 2022. Pro Football Focus (PFF) projected his fifth-year option would have cost $13.2 million in 2023.
While the Vikings declining Bradbury’s fifth-year option is a lack of optimism, the front office hasn’t brought in competition for the starting center spot through the draft or free agency.
Bradbury is the prospective starter for the 2022 season, Tomasson said.
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Bradbury Deemed the Vikings’ Biggest Draft Mistake in the Past 6 Years
At the start of the 2020 season, PFF draft analyst Mike Renner deemed Bradbury the biggest draft mistake by Minnesota since 2015 for his poor pass-blocking abilities.
“The Vikings’ selection of Bradbury has layers of mistakes packed into it. It torpedoed the career of Pat Elflein, whom they drafted the year prior as he was far more suited for the center position. He also is more than likely going to continue to put them in that no man’s land for years to come. That’s because he’s good enough in the run game to not be replaced, but a liability in pass protection,” Renner wrote in 2020. He has earned pass protection grades of 41.4 and 38.8 in his first two seasons.”
Bradbury has shown few signs of improvement since Renner’s scathing review of the North Carolina State product. 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.
But with Bradbury entering a contract year as the starting center for a fourth straight year, newly hired head coach Kevin O’Connell has offered his support for the 26-year-old.
“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 in March, 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.”
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Former Vikings Lineman Says Bradbury Can Be Saved
Last offseason, Purple PTSD spoke with a former Minnesota lineman who unsheathed a litany of critiques on the Vikings offensive front. The lineman’s identity was undisclosed, however, Purple PTSD hosts a podcast with Mike Tice who remains well-connected to the team.
Despite the criticism, the lineman did offer some hope for Bradbury, who he said hasn’t been helped by struggling guard play the past two seasons.
“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.”
Minnesota signed veteran guards Chris Reed and Jesse Davis to compete for a starting guard spot. The Vikings also drafted LSU guard Ed Ingram in the second round. He figures to be a contender for a starting guard spot as well.