Cardinals fans should be closely monitoring whether Sam Bradford makes it through the team’s physical exam.
It might be the best pass he has all year.
The most head-scratching move of 2018 NFL free agency involves a quarterback who Ravens safety Eric Weddle on Twitter proclaimed “has been paid more for nothing than anyone in (the) history of (the) NFL.”
It’s one thing for a media member to level such scathing criticism. It’s far more damning when a player gets publicly eviscerated by one of his own, especially a peer as accomplished and well-regarded as Weddle.
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Yet the Cardinals not only are reportedly set to sign Bradford to a one-year, $20 million contract that includes $15 million guaranteed when it appears no other team had anywhere near as much interest. Arizona reportedly is doubling-down on the QB stiffs with the intention to also add Mike Glennon on a one-year deal.
The Cardinals could have more quarterbacking success if 73-year-old Jim Hart was lured out of retirement.
At least the left knee of that franchise legend might be in better shape than that of Bradford.
Having torn his ACL in 2013 and in 2014, Bradford began experiencing problems once again after he led Minnesota to victory in the 2017 season-opener against New Orleans. He missed the next three games before retuning in what proved the saddest Monday night quarterbacking performance for the Vikings since Josh Freeman was thrown to the wolves without knowing the playbook in 2013.
No NFL player I’ve covered in 23 seasons has ever looked like he wanted to stay on the field less than the pain-riddled Bradford did against Chicago at Soldier Field.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who never should have put or kept Bradford out there in the first place, mercifully switched to Case Keenum just before halftime. Bradford was finally cleared to resume playing in January following a clean-up surgery, but Minnesota understandably kept him benched after Keenum thrived while leading the team into the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
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Glennon’s 2017 season was even worse that of Bradford’s outside of the ridiculous $18 million he received to sign with Chicago as a free agent. Glennon, who joined the Bears believing he had a legitimate chance to become the team’s franchise quarterback, immediately knew his days were numbered when Chicago made Mitchell Trubisky the draft’s No. 2 overall pick just six weeks after his signing.
The end came after four pedestrian games in which Glennon had committed eight turnovers and gotten sacked eight times while leading an offense that averaged a paltry 15.3 points. Like in Tampa Bay the previous two seasons with Jameis Winston, Glennon spent the rest of the season on the sideline watching a neophyte QB (Trubisky) take his lumps.
After all, if the Bears were going to lose with Glennon and a lousy supporting cast, anyway, getting Trubisky some much-needed game experience made far more sense in building toward the future.
The Cardinals did not display such foresight at quarterback in the previous four years under then-head coach Bruce Arians. Only one QB, 2014 fourth-round pick Logan Thomas, was drafted in that span even though Arizona knew the clock was ticking on a quickly aging Carson Palmer.
Logan wasn’t just a washout. He isn’t even playing the position anymore, having converted to tight end in salvaging his NFL career with Buffalo.
Arizona’s two backups in 2017, journeymen Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert, also showed no signs of being capable replacements for Palmer when they got to play as the latter ended his career on injured reserve.
This left Arizona and new head coach Steve Wilks in a bind entering the offseason. The Cardinals’ salary cap situation is such that bidding for Kirk Cousins, who will be signing a mega-deal with Minnesota, couldn’t happen. Others QBs available through either free agency or trade like Keenum, Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater, ex-Cardinal Josh McCown or — dare I say it — Colin Kaepernick apparently weren’t affordable or as appealing as Bradford from either a financial or Xs-and-Os standpoint.
Based upon the staggering $114 million Bradford has earned in eight previous NFL seasons, Arizona now joins the Rams, Eagles and Vikings as teams who spent big bucks believing he could be a bona fide franchise QB.
There were flashes. Those three clubs saw the prototype size (6-4, 222 pounds), good arm strength and accuracy that helped Bradford dink-and-dunk his way to a then-NFL record 71.6 completion percentage with Minnesota in 2016.
Team-wise, that year also marked the most successful season Bradford has ever enjoyed as a starter.
He went 7-8. His remaining career record is 27-37-1.
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Signing Bradford and Glennon does not preclude Arizona from making QB a high priority in April’s draft. And maybe things will turn around for Bradford in Arizona.
Maybe the Cardinals can manage to salvage another QB off the NFL scrap heap like with Palmer and Kurt Warner earlier this century. Maybe the 30-year-old Bradford can stay healthy long enough to experience success that he still could be capable of achieving. Maybe running back David Johnson can provide enough support to carry the offense.
Or maybe Glennon or a rookie will become the answer if Bradford gets hurt again.
For me, that’s too many maybes.
In all likelihood, the Bradford acquisition will move the Cardinals closer to where the Rams once were the season they drafted him in 2010: possessor of the top overall pick after finishing with the NFL’s worst record the previous year.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET Wednesday and Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.