With John DeFilippo nearing the end of his second full week as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, and the start of free agency now less than three weeks away, the team is in the throes of its decision-making process as it tries to determine whether one of three established QBs on its roster (Case Keenum, Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater) — or possibly a free agent from another team, like Kirk Cousins — should be its starter in 2018.
“It’s just a matter of choosing the right person to fit our culture and what we’re trying to do offensively,” DeFilippo told Sid Hartman this week. There’s no doubt that Rick Spielman, coach [Mike] Zimmer and myself will put our heads together and make the best decision that we think is the best for the Minnesota Vikings. That is the approach we’re going to take, and we’re in the middle of that process right now.”
The Vikings have plenty of variables to sort out — the contract demands of free agents like Keenum and Bradford, the health of Bradford and Bridgewater and whether Bridgewater’s 2017 contract will toll into 2018 among them — but one thing that might speed up the process is the time DeFilippo has already spent studying two of the team’s three in-house options.
(Mark Craig, Andrew Krammer and I talked about the Vikings’ QB situation, and plenty more, on the latest Access Vikings podcast. You can check it out, or find information about subscribing to Access Vikings on iTunes or Google Play, here.)
DeFilippo became the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in January 2016, joining Doug Pederson’s staff when Bradford was the Eagles’ incumbent. DeFilippo was part of the offensive staff that drove the team’s decision to trade up for Carson Wentz in the 2016 draft — a decision that ultimately made Bradford expendable when Bridgewater hurt his knee later that year — and DeFilippo spent the 2016 offseason and training camp working with Bradford before the Eagles traded him to Minnesota.
Two years earlier, DeFilippo was the Oakland Raiders’ quarterbacks coach when the team held the No. 5 pick in the 2014 draft. The Raiders took linebacker Khalil Mack fifth overall, but came back to select Derek Carr with the fourth pick of the second round, a day after the Vikings traded back into the first round to take Bridgewater.
Former Raiders coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson attended Bridgewater’s pro day at Louisville, holding a private meeting with him later that day, so it stands to reason the team (DeFilippo included) spent a fair amount of time evaluating Bridgewater before that draft. That DeFilippo’s teams ultimately decided they could do without Bridgewater and Bradford shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a sign the Vikings will reach the same conclusion now, but it’s worth noting that the new coordinator certainly isn’t starting from scratch in his experience with two of the Vikings’ three veterans.
It’s at this point we should point out the Vikings might not have a decision to make on Bridgewater at all. Spielman said earlier this month the NFL will make the decision on whether the quarterback’s contract will toll, based on the time Bridgewater spent on the physically-unable-to-perform list, though NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith indicated the union might be able to argue Bridgewater should be a free agent if medical records show was healthy enough to be cleared before the end of Week 6. NFLPA communications director Carl Francis said this week the union is watching Bridgewater’s situation “very closely,” and the quarterback’s status could trigger a dispute between the league and the players’ association this spring. If the NFL Management Council finds that Bridgewater’s contract should toll, though, the Vikings would have him back at a base salary of just $1.354 million for 2018.
The Vikings’ QB decision will come after Spielman, Zimmer, DeFilippo and other sort through a handful of different scenarios, and it’s entirely possible the process will lead the Vikings to the same outcome they reached last year, with Keenum as their starter going forward. As they make decisions on whether they can tether their future to the health of either Bradford or Bridgewater, though, it’s worth remembering DeFilippo has done enough work on both players to possibly have some conclusions in mind already.