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The Teddy Bridgewater Trade Makes Sense for the Jets, Saints, and Bridgewater

It’s the rare NFL deal where everyone seems to win — at least for now

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Deal

The Jets receive: New Orleans’s 2019 third-round pick

The Saints receive: New York’s 2019 sixth-round pick and Teddy Bridgewater

The Darnold Era Is Upon Us

As the Jets were loading onto a bus before their preseason game against the Eagles on Wednesday, Bridgewater was informed that he was being traded to the Saints. He stepped on to wave goodbye to the team, and New York formally ushered in the Sam Darnold era. Darnold will now be the Jets’ Week 1 starter, and at 21 years and 97 days old, he’ll be the youngest QB to start the first game of a season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

In his youthful hands he holds the optimism that Jets fans have kept deep inside them for generations. For the sake of their health, let’s hope that Darnold is good.

Regardless of how Darnold will play, this is an excellent trade for the Jets. After signing Bridgewater to a one-year deal with $1 million guaranteed and $6 million total, most of that money will now be paid by the Saints, who gave the Jets a third-round pick for their troubles. Considering that New York still has veteran Josh McCown around to tutor Darnold in all things quarterbacking and hair quaffing, the Jets essentially paid $1 million for a top-96 pick, a valuable restocking effort after giving up three second-rounders to move up to the third spot in the draft.

Why Didn’t the Saints Just Sign Teddy in March?

Considering the Saints could have grabbed Bridgewater in free agency, it’s surprising to see them give up a third-rounder, especially after they gave up their 2019 first-round pick and a 2018 fifth-rounder to move up 13 spots and select defensive end Marcus Davenport in April. There’s a chance that Bridgewater wanted to be able to compete for a starting job, and thus spurned the Drew Brees–led Saints in March, but if not, it’s a curious strategic reversal for New Orleans.

Now that they have Bridgewater, the Saints could attempt to recoup a third-round pick by letting him leave in free agency next year and getting a compensatory selection for him, but that would require both Bridgewater signing a big deal elsewhere and the win-now Saints mostly staying out of free agency in 2019. The more logical move would be to sign Bridgewater to a long-term deal as both insurance against Brees’s health and a fallback plan in case Brees, who will turn 40 in January, retires soon. Chase Daniel, who backed up Brees last season, left New Orleans to back up Mitch Trubisky in Chicago, so the Saints may have wanted a veteran presence backing up Brees rather than Taysom Hill, who is 28 but has played just two seasons and has been making noise in a special teams role.

If Bridgewater stays in New Orleans as Brees’s successor, this trade could look ingenious. If not, the Saints may regret having just one pick in the first two days of the 2019 draft.

The Many Lives of Teddy Bridgewater

At 25 years old, Bridgewater is the same age as Dak Prescott, which feels impossible considering how many ups and downs Bridgewater has already experienced in his NFL career. He led the Vikings for two seasons while looking like one of the most promising young players in the league. Then he suffered a catastrophic knee injury that nearly cost him his leg and required more than a full year of recovery. He returned in 2017 for just two passes, one of which was an interception, and he hit free agency in March. Even after the Jets drafted Darnold, Teddy played well enough in preseason to be the Jets’ Week 1 starter. But New York wanted to fast-track their rookie, and now Bridgewater will be backing up Brees.

It’s hard to think of a career with more what-ifs in the rearview and more possible forks in front of him than Bridgewater. Most starting-caliber quarterbacks never hit free agency. Now he could hit it twice in two years. He could make a less-than-illustrious but extremely profitable career from being a big-name backup, or compete for another starting job in 2019, or sit patiently behind Brees and take over as the next quarterback in Sean Payton’s system. He hasn’t had many things go his way, but he’s perfectly positioned to make the next few years his most fruitful yet.