The New Orleans Saints and Teddy Bridgewater see this season as an opportunity.
For Bridgewater, an opportunity to learn an offense he's admired from afar his entire career from the inside out, and an opportunity to learn from Drew Brees. For the Saints, an opportunity to upgrade the backup quarterback position and get a good look at a young quarterback they've long admired.
Bridgewater's long-term future in New Orleans remains murky. Bridgewater is only under contract through the end of this season, and both the Saints and their new quarterback were noncommittal about the possibility of Bridgewater signing a long-term deal that would make him Brees' eventual successor.
"If we could all predict the future, I think we'd all be millionaires or something like that right now," Bridgewater said. "For me, I have to live in the now and take advantage of this opportunity I have today. I can't live too far down the road."
When news of the trade first hit the NFL on Wednesday, the move to get Bridgewater seemed like a Saints gamble to get their hands on an heir apparent to Brees after several failed attempts at landing that type of player in the draft.
New Orleans paid a steep price — a third-round pick in the 2019 draft, when the Saints are already missing their first-round selection after the Marcus Davenport trade — to get a backup quarterback under contract to make $5 million this season.
Based on the cost, the Saints seemed to be making a long-term play for the future, but New Orleans decision-makers said it's too soon to think about trying to lock up Bridgewater with an extension right away.
"I think that’s premature to talk about that," general manager Mickey Loomis told Fox8. "We just got him in here yesterday. (It's an) opportunity to get a good young player at that position who’s had success in our league already and fits our culture."
While the Saints did not articulate a definitive intent to sign Bridgewater long-term, New Orleans also did not rule it out.
"We’ll see," coach Sean Payton said. "We don’t have to decide any of that right now."
Back in March, back before the start of free agency, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins found himself daydreaming about the Saints bringing in Bridgewater, his quarterback when he first arrived in Louisville.
To Rankins, Bridgewater's football smarts, mental toughness and playmaking ability fit perfectly in Payton's offense.
New Orleans decision-makers have long agreed with Rankins about Bridgewater's profile, and Payton had heard rave reviews from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, one of Payton's best friends in the NFL; and his mentor, Bill Parcells.
But the Saints did not pursue Bridgewater in free agency because of questions about the devastating dislocated knee that cost Bridgewater two seasons and his starting job in Minnesota.
New York signed Bridgewater to a one-year, $5 million deal with an extra $9 million available in incentives, and the Saints instead opted to sign former Texans starter Tom Savage to a low-cost, low-risk deal.
"There was a little unknown as to physically how he was moving around," Payton said. "Then for him to go in and play like he did, you had a chance to see him move, and we’ve watched every one of his throws, We went through a long physical today, and we’re excited to have him."
Bridgewater's preseason in New York answered any questions New Orleans had about his knee and made the former Vikings starter into a coveted commodity around the NFL.
New York decided to hand its starting job to No. 3 pick Sam Darnold; still, Bridgewater completed 73.7 percent of his passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, proving to the Saints and the rest of the NFL that his comeback was complete.
New Orleans decided Bridgewater was a better option than either Savage or second-year player Taysom Hill.
"You get a young, talented player who is accurate. Man, a lot happened to him in a short period of time, when you really look at his ascension in Minnesota," Payton said. "Year two, he’s in the playoffs, they’re a field goal away from advancing to the next round, the following year he has that injury and the team has success, and all the sudden he’s on a different roster, they draft a quarterback — a good player. So I like this player. And we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t feel like he was someone that could help our team."
Bridgewater has always been confident in his recovery from the knee injury that could have ended his career.
Obviously, he wanted a chance to start, but Darnold's emergence in New York left the Jets looking for a chance to maximize his value. Now that Bridgewater is in New Orleans, he plans to make the most of a situation that likely won't allow him to get on the field unless Brees suffers an injury.
"I get to take advantage of this opportunity, like I said, to grow as a man, not a football player," Bridgewater said. "I get to learn from one of the best players to ever play this game, get to be in the room with a great group of guys, get to learn from coach Payton."
Bridgewater's future in New Orleans beyond this season remains cloudy.
New Orleans holds a team option on Brees, and the future Hall of Famer has always said he'll play as long as he possibly can. If Brees turns in another Pro Bowl-type season, Bridgewater is likely going to be looking for a chance to start next year.
Bridgewater has already lost two seasons to the knee injury; a season spent as a backup would be the third.
"He's quiet, very calm demeanor, but extremely competitive," Rankins said. "That's just kind of the way he was raised, the Miami, the south Florida in him. Definitely, when it comes to that edge, that competitive nature and doing what it takes to win, him and Drew are definitely very similar in that fashion."
For the moment, both Bridgewater and the Saints are pushing any decisions about next season into the future.
New Orleans wanted to bring him in now. The rest will sort itself out.