The day before the 2021 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos consummated a trade with the Carolina Panthers for veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Broncos' GM George Paton gave up a sixth-round draft pick and talked the Panthers into eating the bulk of Bridgewater's salary.
The Broncos will pick up just $3 million of Bridgewater's salary, which is a nice bargain considering his experience. Out of the gates, we learned from Paton and head coach Vic Fangio that the team's plan is for Bridgewater and the incumbent starter Drew Lock to square off in an open competition for the starting job.
Fangio has said the duel will be a 50/50 split in reps. Time will tell if it shakes out that way. Meanwhile, Bridgewater has been down that road before of having to sing for his supper and he relishes the opportunity to cross swords with Lock, knowing it could bring out the best in both of them and forge a relationship.
"Yeah, definitely," Bridgewater told the team website. "Competition makes us all better as human beings. Then, in the end, you look back and realize you formed relationships and bonds with different guys through competition. You learn a lot about the guy you're competing against, and the guy you're competing with."
For Bridgewater, he's excited to get a fresh start in an NFL city as renowned as Denver, with a GM he worked with back in Minnesota.
"It was great. I saw George—he was walking—he's still cool," Bridgewater said. "He was a cool guy when I was in Minnesota and he's still cool now that we're in Denver. I'm just looking forward to just working here, being the best football player that I can be, being the best teammate that I can be, the best person in the community. That's ultimately why they brought me here so I look forward to just having some fun this year and making the best of it."
Make no mistake; Bridgewater was elated to learn that Carolina was dealing him to Denver. He explained why he views the Broncos so bullishly.
"I was very excited. A new beginning, new opportunities," Bridgewater said. "Just an opportunity to come in and—this is a great football team. There's some great pieces here. I just feel like I have a great opportunity to just come in and fit right in with those guys."
Bridgewater was Minnesota's first-round pick out of Louisville back in 2014. Despite this being the eighth NFL season since arriving, 'Teddy Two-Gloves' enters is poised to play his seventh campaign as a grievous knee injury that threatened his career sidelined him for all of 2016.
He signed a lucrative three-year, $63M deal with the Panthers last spring but things didn't work out. Bridgewater posted one of the worst statistical campaigns of his career and the Panthers finished 4-12. The team's move was to trade for Sam Darnold, which rendered Bridgewater expendable.
However, Bridgewater has surveyed the Broncos' roster and is excited by the talent this team has.
"It's a talented football team. It has so many pieces," Bridgewater said. "I'm just glad to be a part of what they're doing around here and what we're trying to build here. It's a unique opportunity for me to come in and compete and lead at the same time. I'm just grateful for this opportunity."
It'll be interesting to see how things shape up between Lock and Bridgewater. As the incumbent, Lock will have the upper hand initially but Pat Shurmur's offense isn't completely new to Bridgewater as Shurmur served in the same role back with the Vikings in 2017 as Bridgewater worked his way back from that knee injury and was ultimately cleared to play in-season.
Bridgewater couldn't usurp Case Keenum by that point, though, as the Vikings were rolling to an 11-win season and would go on to push deep into the playoffs. Bridgewater ended up signing a one-year deal with the New York Jets the next spring, which was followed by a two-year stint with the New Orleans Saints learning at the feet of future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees.
Bridgewater would start six games for the Saints, going 5-1 overall, which led to his big payday with the Panthers in 2020. It's all come full circle for the former Louisville star, however, as he finds himself in Denver and once again in a situation where he has to out-duel an opponent for the starting job.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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