General manager Mike Maccagnan confirmed Monday that Bridgewater (knee) may not be a participant in the offseason program, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. "That injury may take some time to fully recover from," Maccagnan said. "If all things go well, you guys will have a chance to see him out there to throw this spring."
Maccagnan referenced the "risk-reward" of a signing like Bridgewater, who has taken just nine in-game snaps since tearing the ACL and dislocating the kneecap in his left knee on Aug. 30, 2016. The Jets are hopeful that the program set up by their training staff will help Bridgewater return to the level of play he exhibited in 2014 and 2015, when he averaged 7.24 yards per attempt, posted 28 touchdowns versus 21 interceptions and averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 29 appearances. As the offseason continues, the team will trust in veteran Josh McCown under center, with the potential addition of a QB in the draft threatening the roster spots of Bridgewater, who is guaranteed just $500,000 on his one-year deal, 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and/or 2016 second-round selection Christian Hackenberg.
Bridgewater wouldn't commit to taking part in the Jets' offseason program, Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com reports. "That's not something I'm comfortable talking about right now," Bridgewater said in a conference call Wednesday. "I'm pretty sure that will be a discussion I have with the training staff and we'll come up with a plan moving forward."
Bridgewater has played just nine snaps, all in Week 15 of last season, since tearing up his left knee on Aug. 30, 2016. If his comments reveal anything, his recovery appears to be ongoing, and any upcoming participation in OTAs and/or minicamp will be determined by the health of his surgically-repaired knee. Bridgewater's incentive-laden contract with the Jets only has $500,000 guaranteed, signifying he could be at risk of becoming a roster casualty this summer if it appears a rookie QB is ready to back up incumbent starter Josh McCown, who is presumably past the hand injury that ended his 2017 season.
Initially reported as a $15 million deal, Bridgewater's contract has sounded weaker and weaker as more of the details have become public. He'll collect a $500,000 signing bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus this offseason, but the rest of his money comes in the form of a non-guaranteed $5 million base salary and $9 million worth of incentives. With incumbent starter Josh McCown re-signed and the Jets recently trading up for the No. 3 overall pick with their eyes (presumably) on a young quarterback, it isn't hard to imagine a scenario in which Bridgewater is traded or released before Week 1. He may have accepted the unusual contract structure for that very reason, hoping the Jets will allow him to go elsewhere if McCown holds onto the starting job and a draft pick appears ready for the backup gig. The contract structure is risky from a financial perspective, but it does improve Bridgewater's odds of getting on the field in 2018, be it for the Jets or another team.
Now more than 18 months removed from suffering a torn ACL, the 32nd overall pick from the 2014 draft apparently was able to pass a physical. His contract has a maximum value around $15 million, but the majority seems to be in the form of incentives, as the base salary is only $6 million. Incumbent starter Josh McCown signed a one-year, $10 million contract, and the Jets recently traded up in the draft from No. 6 overall to No. 3, presumably with the intention of drafting another quarterback. Bridgewater may get a shot to compete for the starting job, but McCown will enter training camp atop the depth chart, while a rookie likely will be groomed for the future. It isn't an ideal situation in terms of Bridgewater actually getting meaningful regular-season snaps for the first time since 2015.
In addition to adding Bridgewater, the Jets will re-sign Josh McCown, their 2017 starting quarterback, when the new league year opens later Wednesday. It's expected that McCown will enter training camp atop the team's depth chart at the position, but the terms of Bridgewater's deal suggests the situation will be competitive, assuming both signal callers are healthy. With both Bridgewater and McCown only under contract for one season, it's still plausible the Jets will select a quarterback during the upcoming NFL Draft, possibly with the No. 6 overall pick.
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