There's no guarantee Teddy Bridgewater will play for the New York Jets. He basically missed two full seasons because of a horrific knee injury, so team officials have been careful not to build up expectations. At the same time, they're cautiously optimistic.
"From a character, work-ethic standpoint, he's a guy we'd like to take a bet on and see what he can do," general manager Mike Maccagnan said Monday at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Florida. "If he can regain his previous form, it's an extra bonanza for us. ... It would be a good problem to have."
The Jets were criticized in some circles when they signed Bridgewater and Josh McCown on the same day in free agency. Why two veterans? What happens when/if they draft a quarterback? How will they divide the practice reps? There was a lot of noise.
From the team's perspective, Bridgewater was a no-risk addition. His one-year, $6 million contract includes only a $500,000 guarantee, so they can cut him in training camp with virtually no cap ramifications. If he recaptures his 2015 form, when he helped the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC North title, they'll have a young quarterback (25) with upside.
The Jets expect he'll be ready for offseason practices, which begin in May, but there's some question as to how much he'll participate. Bridgewater himself said last week he's "not comfortable" discussing his surgically repaired knee and the immediate plan.
"That injury may take some time to fully recover from," Maccagnan said. "Any player you sign in free agency, there's a bit of a reward-risk aspect to it. But we thought, in particularly with him, we can help him regain his previous form that he showed earlier in his career where he was a very good young quarterback."
Bridgewater played only a handful of garbage-time snaps last season for the Vikings, so he's very much a wild card. How he progresses likely will impact Christian Hackenberg (remember him?), who will be a goner if Bridgewater proves he's healthy and the Jets draft a quarterback with the No. 3 pick.
Maccagnan was asked about the possibility of cutting Hackenberg, a former second-round pick, and he didn't exactly throw cold water on the notion.
"We still have a lot of things to happen before we get to that point," he said. "With Christian, I know he's spent a lot of time this offseason working, so I'm excited to see him come back. But, again, depending on how Teddy comes along, what happens in the draft, I think it's … I wouldn't necessarily rule anything in or out at this point."
The Jets have five quarterbacks on the roster -- McCown, Bridgewater, Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and Joel Stave, a former practice-squad player. It'll be six after the draft. They won't go to training camp with more than four, so moves will be made. Prediction: If they take a quarterback in the first round, they'll put Hackenberg and Petty on the trading block, hoping to get something -- anything -- in return.
"We'll have a plan in place," Maccagnan said. "We've already talked about it internally. We'll see how things come along. We'll see how Teddy comes along. We'll figure out ways to make sure everybody gets the reps they need. Quarterbacks are a bit of a commodity in this business, so we'll see how that all unfolds."