Bradbury heads to free agency with hopes of staying with Vikings

Center Garrett Bradbury emerged from the Vikings' 31-24 NFC wild-card playoff loss to the Giants — his first game in six weeks because of a lower back injury — feeling well physically.

That's good news for the 27-year-old Bradbury, whose representatives will be negotiating a new contract this offseason for the pending free agent.

"The good thing, from what I'm hearing, is nothing further in the future," Bradbury said Monday. "It shouldn't hinder anything. It's good to go, I feel good other than typical soreness. Definitely answered prayers."

Bradbury, the team's 2019 first-round pick, is headed for free agency for the first time. He feels a roller coaster of four Vikings seasons is currently at a high point, and he made clear he wants to stay in Minnesota.

"I'll have some good conversations here with the team moving forward, let them know that I love it here, I love being here," Bradbury said. "I'd like to stay here. But it's a business and have to approach it as such. Have to figure out where the next steps are, but it's definitely weird."

As players cleaned out their lockers Monday to depart for vacation destinations, Bradbury said it's "the worst day of the year" because this exact 53-man roster will never be together again. Bradbury, whose on-field performance improved through 13 starts this season, credited first-year coach Kevin O'Connell for creating an environment to which he'd like to return.

"It's been an awesome year," Bradbury said. "I told KO, this is the most fun year I've had. Coming to work every day, obviously winning is fun and that takes care of a lot of it, but just the day-to-day life here, it's awesome here right now. They got a good thing building here."

"I think everyone this year could kind of be themselves," Bradbury added. "It's something you want to be a part of, for sure."

Bradbury is one of 15 players headed for unrestricted free agency this spring. Cornerback Chandon Sullivan, who signed a one-year deal last offseason, is also part of that group. He played in all 18 games this season for a Vikings defense that consistently struggled to cover receivers.

"I'd love to come back," Sullivan said. "But we'll just see what happens."

Kicker Greg Joseph will head into free agency after making all four kicks (three extra points and a 38-yard field goal) against the Giants to finish the season with 22 consecutive makes at U.S. Bank Stadium.

A new standard

Left tackle Christian Darrisaw's ascension was one of the brightest spots of this Vikings season, and the 23-year-old cornerstone said he expects to harness the pain of an early exit in his NFL playoff debut.

"We did a lot of special things this year that nobody can ever take away from us," he said. "Obviously we didn't get the results that we wanted, but it's going to be on everyone's minds coming into it next year. We're never going to forget this feeling."

Darrisaw lauded O'Connell's first run leading the Vikings.

"I feel like we got a new standard now," Darrisaw said. "We know what we're capable of as a team. We got 13 wins this year. Why not try to build on this season, take the positives, reflect on the negative things that happened and come into this offseason ready to work?"

'Penciled in'

Safety Camryn Bynum spoke with wisdom beyond his 24 years when asked whether he considers himself "penciled in" as a starter on the 2023 Vikings' depth chart. Bynum, the 2021 fourth-round pick, was the only defensive starter to play all 1,233 snaps through the regular season and playoffs. He has started 21 games, including Sunday's playoff loss, through two seasons.

"Really, everything in life is penciled in," Bynum said. "Nothing is ever in cement."

Etc.The Vikings re-signed six players from the practice squad to 2023 contracts: tight end Nick Muse, cornerback Tay Gowan, receiver Trishton Jackson, receiver Blake Proehl, outside linebacker Benton Whitley and center Josh Sokol.The Vikings are the first team in the Super Bowl era to lose a game — playoffs or regular season — while completing at least 80% of their passes without a turnover or sack; NFL teams were 47-0 when hitting those marks prior to Sunday, according to Stats Perform. Giants nose tackle Dexter Lawrence had a team-high eight pressures against quarterback Kirk Cousins, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.