Skip to main content

Vikings Officially Decline Fifth-Year Option for 2019 First-Rounder Garrett Bradbury

The Vikings haven't picked up a fifth-year option since Trae Waynes four years ago.

There are numerous reasons why the Vikings fell off after a strong 2015-19 run under Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer, eventually leading to both being fired this offseason. 

One that sticks out is their struggles in the first round of the draft during that stretch. NFL teams usually need to hit on draft picks to keep the talent pool stocked, especially if they have to let important veterans walk for salary cap reasons. The Vikings didn't do that.

It had been fully expected for a while, but the Vikings officially declined to pick up the fifth-year option for 2019 first-rounder Garrett Bradbury on Monday. It's been four years since the Vikings picked up a fifth-year option, which highlights their struggles in the draft from 2016-19.

2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell was a major bust. The Vikings didn't have a 2017 first-round pick after trading it to acquire Sam Bradford when Teddy Bridgewater went down prior to the '16 season. 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes didn't pan out, and neither did Bradbury.

The last time the Vikings picked up a fifth-year option was four years ago, when they agreed to bring back 2015 first-rounder Trae Waynes for a fifth season in 2019. Waynes was a solid player in a draft class that famously also included Pro Bowlers Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs, but he left Minnesota in 2020 and hasn't been able to stay healthy over the past two years.

The Vikings got some solid players out of the 2016-19 draft classes, most notably second-rounders Dalvin Cook, Brian O'Neill, and Irv Smith Jr., but missing on three straight first-round picks (and trading the other) dealt a blow to the team's trajectory. Fortunately, despite the Jeff Gladney situation, the Vikings bounced back by landing a superstar in Justin Jefferson in 2020 and their likely left tackle of the future in Christian Darrisaw last year.

Bradbury was seen as an elite, safe center prospect coming out of NC State in 2019. The Vikings drafted him at No. 18 overall, and it was seen as a solid pick that addressed a major need. But although Bradbury's elite athleticism has made him a strong run-blocker in the NFL, he simply hasn't been able to overcome his lack of length and mass when it comes to pass protection. Consistently driven into the backfield by powerful defensive tackles, Bradbury has ranked 33rd out of 33, 35th out of 35, and 32nd out of 33 in PFF pass blocking grade among centers (min. 500 snaps) in his three seasons.

New Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell has expressed his belief in Bradbury heading into this season, saying he believes they could do some different schematic things that would help him. Still, it would be very surprising if Bradbury is handed the starting job without competition. Veteran Chris Reed, acquired this offseason, has experience playing center in preseason games. Recent Day 2 picks Wyatt Davis and Ed Ingram played guard in college but could be in the mix at C. And the Vikings may not have the cap space to make this happen, but J.C. Tretter is still an unsigned free agent.

Bradbury is now officially entering a contract year along with the rest of the 2019 draft class. If he holds onto the starting job this year and plays well, he could certainly be brought back next spring. Based on what we've seen from him over the past three seasons, the most likely outcome is that this is his last year in Minnesota.

Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.