METAIRIE, La. — Of course Teddy Bridgewater took time to consider the Miami Dolphins in free agency this week.
For one thing, Miami is his hometown. For another, they were the only NFL team with a starting quarterback vacancy.
But neither was enough to lure Bridgewater away from the New Orleans Saints, who obviously made quite an impression on the 26-year-old quarterback after acquiring him in a trade late last August.
“I told my agents every time that I talked to them that I haven’t stopped smiling since I arrived,” said Bridgewater, who signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract worth up to $12.5 million with incentives — even though it means spending at least one more year as a backup behind Drew Brees.
“They made playing football fun, they made learning the game fun … and that’s something I appreciate,” Bridgewater told WWL Radio. “I was able to be part of that for 18 weeks last season, and it was nothing but positive things that occurred.”
Bridgewater further explained on a conference call Friday that he did take time to consider the Dolphins — including a visit to their practice facility on Wednesday — because “you don’t want to shut all doors right away.” But he said he had a pretty good idea all along that he wanted to stay in New Orleans.
“I think for me, you ultimately play this game to compete and to start. But at the same time, I’m still 26 years old. And the way I look at it is that I’ll have another opportunity to start in this league at some point,” said Bridgewater, who began his career as a first-round draft pick and starter with the Minnesota Vikings from 2014-2015 before a devastating knee injury during the summer of 2016 sidetracked his career.
“So I look at it as this year I get the opportunity to continue to learn from a guy who’s gonna be a Hall of Famer. And I get to be a part of a team that was a call away from getting to the Super Bowl. And I get to work with a coaching staff that grinds on a daily basis, that spends numerous nights at that facility to make sure their players are in the best positions to win. I look at those things, and I tell myself, ‘Hey this is what I play this game for. And eventually my time will come that I can start.'”
Bridgewater missed nearly two full seasons before signing with the New York Jets last summer and proving he was healthy during the preseason. He then made his first start in three years when the Saints rested several starters in Week 17.
But he said as much as he wants to become a starter again, “you don’t want to rush yourself into any situation where you could ultimately or possibly lead back to where you are today.”
“I’ve always been taught that patience is the key, and for me it’s about longevity,” Bridgewater said. “My mom always told me that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. So I have that mindset that everything will work in my favor.”
Bridgewater did not directly say anything negative about the Dolphins’ roster or chance to compete. But it’s clear that they are in more of a rebuilding mode under new head coach Brian Flores.
“I wanted to make a decision where I put myself in the best situation to succeed as a man and as a player in this league,” said Bridgewater, who said his year with the Saints was different than anything he had experienced before.
“It’s very different,” Bridgewater said. “Just to be in a room where everyone was on the same page, from the head coach to the offensive coordinator to the quarterback coach to the starting quarterback to all the other quarterbacks in the room, to be a part of that and to see how it’s run, how a well-oiled machine runs, it was great to experience that. And I’m looking forward to this year also.”
Bridgewater also didn’t say that he was given any assurances of a future starting job whenever Brees retires. He said the main focus of his talk with the Saints was on this year and how they can get back in position to win a Super Bowl.
But he did say that he had discussions with coach Sean Payton before making his decision. And it’s clear that Payton has been impressed with Bridgewater so far.
ESPN’s Dianna Russini said she asked Payton at the NFL scouting combine which quarterback he was going after, knowing that the 40-year-old Brees’ career could be over soon. And she said Payton replied, “I have my guy. His name is Teddy Bridgewater.”
The Saints traded a third-round draft pick to the Jets last August for Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick — both because they wanted to improve their backup QB situation and because they wanted to both evaluate and recruit Bridgewater as a possible long-term option.
So far, that investment appears to have paid off. However, Brees and Bridgewater are both scheduled to become free agents again after this season. So there will be more decisions to come at this time next year.