MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings debate the futures of two quarterbacks -- the one they took in the first round in 2014 and the one for whom they traded a first-round pick last fall -- the contract extension of another quarterback from the 2014 draft could make the Vikings' decision even more expensive.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who went four picks after Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft, now has a deal that makes him the highest-paid passer in the league, as measured by ESPN Stats & Information. Carr's extension gives him an annual salary of $25 million -- the highest in the league -- and includes $70.2 million in guaranteed money, which is second behind the $87 million in guarantees Andrew Luck got from the Indianapolis Colts.
His deal now means there are 13 quarterbacks playing on deals with an average annual value of $20 million or more. Bradford, whose current deal averages $17.5 million a season and expires after this year, now has the 16th-highest AAV of any passer in the league.
That's perhaps right where the 29-year-old quarterback should be; he ranked 17th in the league (just behind Carr) in Total QBR last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and is 29th over the past three seasons. But as the prices for quarterbacks continue to rise and the Chicago Bears -- a team the Vikings will play twice this year -- pay Mike Glennon an average of $15 million a year, Bradford's agent Tom Condon will undoubtedly be looking for a deal that pushes the quarterback's average figure north of $20 million and includes at least $40-$50 million in guaranteed money.
Bradford can help his case even more with a strong season as he inches closer to free agency, and the Vikings surely know their decision gets more costly the longer they wait. They've put two veteran tackles in front of Bradford this offseason and revamped the running-back group to be more compatible with their offense; in other words, they've made a concerted effort to set Bradford up for success (and in the process, remove as many variables as they can from their evaluation of him).
Bridgewater's recovery from a knee injury, encouraging as it might have been this spring, probably still puts the young QB too far away to count in on long-term planning, though the Vikings could keep him at $2.18 million for 2018 if he spends this season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. That scenario could allow the Vikings to put the franchise tag on Bradford, or push for another short-term extension that gives them more time to evaluate Bridgewater. But they're counting on Bradford for 2017, and he's looking for the kind of year that nets him a lucrative deal in 2018. The steady upward climb of the quarterback market means he's likely to get it; the Vikings will have to decide if they're the team that gives it to him.