All signs are pointing to the Minnesota Vikings making the biggest free-agent splash by signing quarterback Kirk Cousins, potentially for a three-year deal with a ridiculous amount of guaranteed money embedded into his contract.
But what if Cousins' price tag is too high? The free agency market for quarterbacks effectively runs through Minnesota. Where Cousins lands -- with the Vikings or elsewhere -- will spark a domino effect of quarterback signings.
If Minnesota loses out on Cousins, its next option would be to re-sign one of its three free agents from 2017. But what if Minnesota decides the price tag for Case Keenum, which is expected to climb north of $20 million, is too steep for someone they're not sure is the long-term answer? Might the Vikings turn to another familiar option who wouldn't break the bank and allow them to be aggressive other places in free agency?
Many who have debated the Vikings' conundrum have quickly eliminated Bradford's seat from this game of quarterback musical chairs because of concerns about the health of his thrice surgically repaired left knee. Only twice in his eight-year career (2010 and 2012) did he start all 16 games, and back-to-back ACL tears forced him to miss the entire 2014 season.
Zimmer said nothing concerns him about Bradford's knee at the moment, but he acknowledged the issue is "degenerative," adding uncertainty to the quarterback's future.
"It's his history of being hurt," Zimmer said. "That's the monkey wrench in the whole thing. Can you believe he's going to play the 15 games he did two years ago, or he's going to play the one game where he hit the turf this year? That's the big dilemma."
Despite injury concerns, there's reason to believe Bradford might be the best option for Minnesota if others don't come to fruition.
Zimmer praised Bradford in Indianapolis, citing his explosive season-opening performance against the Saints, his tremendous arm strength and accuracy. In 2016, Bradford produced an NFL-best 71.6 completion percentage built on short passes and checkdowns but also led the league in adjusted completion percentage (57.4) on passes 20 or more yards downfield.
Bradford, 30, has shown the potential to become a franchise quarterback. Beyond injuries, the reason it hasn't happened might be factors that were out of his control.
"Bradford, his record wasn't great. Is it because he didn't have a good team around him?" Zimmer said. "Did he play with a good defense? All those things enter into it. All those factor into it. At the end of the day it's a guess and a hunch."
Bradford might be the smartest option financially for Minnesota. With his medical history, it might be tough for him to land a starting gig and significant guaranteed money beyond 2018. The Vikings could re-sign him for substantially less than their other options and then draft a quarterback in the first round at 30th overall or maybe trade up to land one of the more sought-after passers in this class. They could also pursue a veteran backup to complete the quarterback room.
If Bradford returns, he'll have the support of a really good defense, a commitment from general manager Rick Spielman to keep building the offensive line (there would be cap space for upgrades) and one of the best backfields in the NFL. He'll also have an offensive coordinator he's familiar with, having spent time with John DeFilippo during the 2016 preseason in Philadelphia.
"I love Sam. Sam is probably the purest passer I have ever coached," DeFilippo told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. "He is as accurate as they come in the NFL. Unfortunately for Sam he has battled the injury bug throughout his career, but I loved coaching Sam in Philadelphia. He and I still talk. We have mutual respect for each other."
Re-signing Bradford would cover the Vikings' immediate needs, and they could draft a rookie to groom. With a roster built to win now coming off a 13-3 regular season and appearance in the NFC title game, keeping Bradford in the mix might prove to be the best remaining option for Minnesota if Cousins, Keenum and Bridgewater don't work out.
Zimmer developed strong respect for Bradford, not only for his athletic gifts but also for his intangibles. The Vikings coach saw Minnesota's best scenario in the playoffs by having Bradford, not Bridgewater, as Keenum's backup despite spending the second half of the season on injured reserve.
When healthy, Bradford has given the Vikings a unique competitive edge. Minnesota might believe he can do it again in 2018.
What can we infer about Zimmer's comments about Bradford? It's best to go straight to the source.
"It's the $64,000 question with all three of these guys, right?" Zimmer said. "Can Sam stay healthy? Is Teddy what he was? Is Case the guy that he was last year or two years ago? With Sam, I love Sam -- I love all three of them -- they're all great people.
"[Bradford is] a tremendous athlete. I think he'll stay healthy, but who knows? I have a crystal ball, but I don't have it with me. But it didn't tell me if he's going to stay healthy."