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Center Garrett Bradbury hopes an extra 10 pounds helps him stick with Vikings

Last month, the Vikings elected not to pick up the $13.202 million option on Bradbury for the 2023 season, putting him in line to be a free agent in March

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) before the snap against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter Jan. 9, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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EAGAN, Minnesota — Starting with the 2011 NFL draft, players who were first-round picks began to have fifth-year options in their contracts that had to be picked up or declined after a third season. In the first decade under the rule, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t invoke such options on five players and none ended up returning for a fifth year with the team.

Center Garrett Bradbury is hoping that trend will change.

Last month, the Vikings elected not to pick up the $13.202 million option on Bradbury for the 2023 season, putting him in line to be a free agent in March. However, the Vikings then would have the option to re-sign Bradbury, who was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

“Absolutely,” Bradbury said Tuesday after the first day of a mandatory minicamp about wanting to remain with the Vikings past 2022. “I love it here in Minnesota, me and wife (Carson) do. This is an unbelievable locker room, and I think this coaching staff (under new coach Kevin O’Connell), it’s pretty easy to buy into what these guys are selling.”

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Bradbury did stress that he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of things. After all, he will need to prove this season he is a player worthy of being re-signed.

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“All I’m doing is trying to get better, learn this system, and look forward to having a good year,” said Bradbury, who will be paid a base salary of $2.25 million in 2022.

Since 2011, other first-round picks who did not have their fifth-year options picked up by the Vikings were quarterback Christian Ponder, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and cornerback Mike Hughes. Ponder, Patterson and Bridgewater departed as free agents after their fourth seasons. Treadwell was waived before his fourth year but was re-signed and played out the season. Hughes was traded shortly after his option was declined.

Bradbury’s option was not expected to be picked up for such a lucrative sum. Since it was declined, Bradbury said he has had no discussions with new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah or O’Connell about his long-term future, saying all discussions have been with his agent.

“It’s kind of cliché but you control what you can control,” Bradbury said of his option not being picked up. “And I’ve got this fourth year, and I’m excited with these new coaches and lot of familiar teammates to go out and have a good year and help the Vikings win a lot of games.”

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 26, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports

Bradbury started all 32 games his first two seasons and the first seven last year before missing two games while on the COVID-19 reserve list and then being benched for two other games in favor of Mason Cole. Bradbury did start the final six games after Cole was moved to right guard and Cole then missed the final three games with an elbow injury.

A rap on Bradbury, ranked by Pro Football Focus last year as just the NFL’s 29th-best center, has been being overpowered at times by big nose tackles. Bradbury didn’t deny after last season that he needed to “be more consistent,” and he set out to do something about that.

“I’m putting on weight,” he said. “I probably put on 10-plus pounds since last season, so I’m feeling really good. I’m going to continue to work … in the weight room.”

The 6-foot-3 Bradbury said he played at 295 pounds last year and now weighs between 305 and 310. He spent the offseason working out with Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland and tackle Blake Bradel at Exos in Phoenix, and going to local restaurants.

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“Lifting and eating,” Bradbury said of his offseason. “Beef and ice cream. Just eating everything that I can.”

When Bradbury returned to Minnesota for spring drills in April, the weight he put on was noticeable.

“He’s definitely gotten bigger, and we’re excited to see what he can do this year,” tackle Christian Darrisaw said.

New offensive line coach Chris Kuper said he’s been pleased with Bradbury so far in spring drills, saying the “communication part is easy for him” and he’s been “very demonstrative” with his calls. But Kuper stopped short of saying Bradbury definitely will be the starter, saying that will “get sorted out” in training camp.

“They’re all pushing each other,” Kuper said. “Garrett’s taken every rep with the (first team). He’s been doing a great job.”

Bradbury said also taking snaps at center in the spring have been Chris Reed, Jesse Davis and Austin Schlottman. He expects to face competition in camp, and said he welcomes it.

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