Tampa Bay Buccaneers Silly Not to Extend QB Josh Freeman

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJanuary 15, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 30:  Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers points out the Atlanta Falcons defense at Georgia Dome on December 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s John Clayton, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have well over $30 million in cap space as the team enters the offseason leading up to the 2013 season.

Even with all that money to maneuver, general manager Mark Dominik told 620 WDAE in Tampa Monday that the Buccaneers weren’t in a hurry to hand quarterback Josh Freeman a contract extension.

"No one's in a hurry to push anything through," said Dominik. "There's nothing adversarial about it, it's actually all positive and there's been good communication."

Freeman will enter the 2013 season, the final year of his contract, set to make $8.43 million. After 2013, if no new deal is put together, Freeman will become an unrestricted free agent.

Before the Buccaneers get to the field in 2013, head coach Greg Schiano plans to bring in competition at quarterback, reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. But again, I have to evaluate everything before I can say that's what we're doing. The one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot, including the quarterback.

It really sounds as if the Buccaneers—from the front office to the coaching staff—aren’t sold on Freeman under center for the long term.

That’s preposterous.

Freeman just finished the 2012 season with 4,065 passing yards, a career high. He also set a career best with 27 touchdown passes and reduced his interceptions by almost 25 percent from the 2011 season.

Is Freeman an elite quarterback? No. Does he have the tools and the upside? For sure.

Once the Buccaneers opened up the offense a little, after their bye week, Freeman flourished. From Week 6 to Week 10, Freeman threw for 1,467 yards and had an amazing 13-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. During that time the Buccaneers won four of those five games and slid into the playoff hunt.

That was a snapshot of what Freeman can do.

Freeman also threw nine interceptions over the final three weeks of the season—another snapshot of what he was capable of.

But it’s prudent to look at Freeman’s highs more than his lows because by the end of the season Tampa Bay’s offensive line was decimated. It started early in the season as starting lineman after starting lineman went down with injury. The Buccaneers were fighting through this even when Freeman was on top of his game, but by year’s end, it just got to be too much.

Freeman was sacked seven times in Tampa Bay’s final three games. During the five games where Freeman looked invincible, he was sacked six times.

The fourth-year passer made mistakes; his poor performance wasn’t solely an indictment of the offensive line. But Weeks 6 through 10 were more indicative of his true talent, not Weeks 15 through 17.

Just the same as Freeman’s 2010 season was more the real Freeman than 2011.

Freeman is still young and still learning how to thrive as an NFL quarterback. Plus, he’s only one year into a new system with a new coaching staff. Letting Freeman play too far into his contract season of 2013 is a mistake.

Only 11 passers in the NFL threw for over 4,000 yards in 2012. Freeman was one of them. Only six threw for more touchdowns than Freeman.

If the Buccaneers feel they can bring in another quarterback to challenge Freeman, at least a passer good enough to really make a run at taking his job, they’re not thinking straight. It’s crazy to think that there’s going to be a free-agent quarterback that can put up Freeman-like numbers. It’s silly to think Tampa Bay can find someone like that in the draft.

And after last year’s offseason moves and fantastic draft, we know Dominik isn’t crazy. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. Now he just needs to show it and get Freeman under a long-term contract.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.