Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman's Tampa Bay career officially came to an end on Thursday afternoon. Sunday evening Freeman began the next chapter of his football life after signing with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Josh Freeman era as a Buccaneer ended on Thursday.
The Freeman era as a member of the Vikings began Sunday night with the announcement that Freeman has joined Minnesota as free agent.
Freeman signed a one-year $2.5 million deal. The Vikings have struggled to a 1-3 start behind incumbent former FSU star Christian Ponder. Backup Matt Cassell filled in for Ponder who is recovering from a fractured rib last week in London as the Vikings picked up their first win of the season.
Adding Freeman to the roster certainly clouds Ponder's future in Minnesota. Ponder, who was selected in the first round two years ago after an impressive Senior Bowl and Combine, has drawn the ire of Vikings fans who feel that Minnesota is wasting the talent of superstar running back Adrian Peterson and the receiving talent of former Green Bay star Greg Jennings who joined the team in free agency this year. Over his career Ponder has thrown for 5,479 yards with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Ponder's career QB rating is only 75.8.
Freeman's once promising Bucs career began in 2009, when then first-year head coach Raheem Morris and new general manager Mark Dominik drafted Freeman as the 17th-overall pick. The Buccaneers traded up two spots with the Cleveland Browns, making him the first quarterback selected by the organization in the first round since 1994 when the team drafted Trent Dilfer. Freeman was drafted behind Matt Stafford (Detroit Lions) and Mark Sanchez (New York Jets). Morris raved about the decision to draft Freeman calling him “his guy” during his opening statement following the selection.
Freeman would start out his rookie season on the bench before being thrown into the game against New England in 2009 in London before hitting the bye week. The following game, Freeman would make his first career start against the Green Bay Packers in the team’s throwback game. In his starting debut, Freeman went 14-of-31 for 205 yards, three touchdowns and one interception and lead the Buccaneers to a 38-28 victory over Green Bay. He would finish his rookie season 158-of-290 for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
In 2010, perhaps Freeman’s best year and his first full season as a starter, he lead the Bucs to a 10-6 record after going 291-of-474 for 3,451 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. That season, he engineered five game winning drives that almost helped propel them into the playoffs.
He would follow his 2010 campaign with a 2011 season that saw his bad side. Tampa Bay finished the season 4-12, ending the year losing 10 straight after starting 4-2 leading to Morris’ firing. In 15 games, Freeman finished 346-of-551 for 3,592 yards with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. The offense was as inconsistent as Freeman’s play on the field, struggling to reach 20 points in nine of his 15 games.
But Freeman would appear to be on track to become the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be during the 2012 season and under the new Greg Schiano regime. In a new offense, Freeman would break franchise records. He holds the Buccaneers record for most passing yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27) in a single season.
However, the promise of building off of a 2012 season quickly collapsed. Under Freeman, the Bucs started 0-3 as the 25-year old former Wildcat product went 43-of-94 for 571 yards with only two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was replaced by rookie Mike Glennon pror to Tampa Bay's Week 4 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Freeman was inactive for the game after being named the backup, then asked to watch the game from a suite and not from the sidelines.
A 2013 season filled with drama and speculation from his benching to his ESPN interview requesting a trade to news leaking out about him being in the NFL’s substance abuse program were all the more reasons for both sides to divorce.
Freeman will be a free agent at the end of the season and will be free to negotiate with any team in the league. The next 12 weeks will be critical for Freeman who will have the chance to showcase his ability and possibly resurrect his career.
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