Teddy Bridgewater contract breakdown: How the Panthers signed one of NFL’s best QB bargains

When the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to be their new starting quarterback in March, there were questions about whether he was a high-priced bridge starter or someone they tabbed to run their promising new offense under Joe Brady for several seasons.

Early into his first season with his fourth NFL team, Bridgewater, who replaced Cam Newton, looks like a keeper at the game’s most important position. Bridgewater turns only 28 in November and now fully healthy from his past knee injuries, is set up to last in the league.

The Vikings’ first-rounder in 2014 and ’15 Pro Bowler took advantage of a strong backup stint with the Saints, going 5-0 as a fill-in for Drew Brees last season. That earned Bridgewater another full-time starting gig in the NFC South.

Here’s a breakdown of Bridgewater’s contract with the Panthers and why it was such a smart deal:

Teddy Bridgewater contract details

Bridgewater, after he was traded by the Jets to the Saints in the 2018 offseason, got a one-year, $7.25 million totally guaranteed contract from New Orleans in 2019 free agency. He’s making almost three times that with the Panthers per season, $21 million.

Overall, Bridgewater got a three-year, $63 million deal. He received $33 million in total guaranteed money at signing with $15 million in signing bonus.

As a 2020 free agent, Bridgewater had some market competition from Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. Tannnehill, re-signing with the Titans, got an an average of $29.5 million per season in his four-year, $118 million deal with $91 million in total guarantees. Rivers, signing with the Colts, got a one-year, totally all guaranteed $25 million deal. Brady doubled up Rivers with the Buccaneers, getting two years at $50 million all guaranteed.

In relation to those quarterbacks, Bridgewater was a bargain for the Panthers. His average of $21 million ranks him No. 19 in the league, just behind Alex Smith, priced at $23.5 million when not starting for Washington in 2020. Who’s right behind Bridgewater? That would be his former teammate, Saints hybrid “quarterback” Taysom Hill, who is getting $16.3 million behind Drew Brees.

Then it is Rivers’ backup, Jacoby Brissett, at $16 million at No. 21. The number drops to $9 million per season for Bengals No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow at No. 22, as part of his four-year all-guaranteed rookie deal valued at more than $36 million.

When you balance out Bridgewater’s average salary with total guarantees, in essence the Panthers spent a little more than a top first-rounder for a veteran with a history of success to reunite him with Brady, a former Saints offensive assistant.

What is Teddy Bridgewater’s cap hit?

The Panthers, for a rebuilding defensive team showing more offensive upside than expected, is saving in terms of the salary cap with Bridgewater. According to OverTheCap.com, Bridgewater counts only $14 million toward the cap in 2020. That number is $23 million in 2021 and $26 million in 2022.

Carolina also built itself a good out with Bridgewater after two years. Moving on from him ahead of the 2022 season would cost them only $5 million in dead money with a cap savings of $21 million, or equal to Bridgewater’s average annual salary.

That gives the Panthers flexibility should Bridgewater underperform or have an injury recurrence to look for another veteran solution or expend a high draft pick on a QB of a longer-term future in 2021. For now Bridgewater is playing well to keep them more competitive than expected, playing off two top wide receivers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, soon with a healthy Christian McCaffrey back in the backfield and a strong system with Brady.

With the early returns on their quarterback investment, the Panthers can feel confident they made a sound one after Newton.

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