The question of service time will not block Teddy Bridgewater from becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.
According to multiple reports, Bridgewater is likely to be declared a free agent even after missing the entire 2016 season with the Minnesota Vikings while recovering from a major knee injury. Bridgewater also spent the first 10 weeks of the 2017 season on the physically unable to perform list.
General Manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings would allow the NFL to determine the contract status of Bridgewater, which challenged the precise definition of "accrued seasons" and service time.
Bridgewater, 25, said following the NFC Championship game – for which he was inactive behind Case Keenum and Sam Bradford – that he "definitely" views himself as a starting quarterback.
Several teams have a need at the position, but uncertainty around Bridgewater's durability and rebuilt knee adds a variable when suitors attempt to define his value.
Spielman did not rule out considering Bridgewater's return to Minnesota. Keenum, who ended the season as the Vikings' No. 1 quarterback, and Bradford, the primary starter in 2016 and at the outset of the 2017 season, are also free agents.
NFL Media reported on Monday that the Vikings don't plan to use the franchise tag on Keenum, who would become a free agent on March 14 after leading the team to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings have until March 6 to tag Keenum; if they placed the franchise tag on him, he would receive a one-year contract worth the average of the league's five highest-paid QBs over the past five years.
The Vikings have only used the franchise tag twice in their history – on Chad Greenway in 2011 and on Jim Kleinsasser in 2003 – and placing the tag on Keenum would have likely meant paying him more than $24 million for the 2018 season. Kirk Cousins, who could be a Vikings target in free agency, made $23.943 million on the tag last year.