Is 2013 a Do-or-Die Season for Josh Freeman?

Dan TylickiAnalyst IMay 7, 2013

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers improved on a 4-11 season in 2011 to go 7-9 in 2012. With the emergence of Doug Martin as a star running back and the acquisition of Darrelle Revis, it's safe to say that the Buccaneers have a deep playoff run in mind.

Yet, there are question marks surrounding the team. They used their third-round pick, one of only two selections in the first three rounds, on quarterback Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State.

Josh Freeman is entering his fifth season as part of the Buccaneers. Is the drafting of Glennon, particularly due to how weak the quarterback class was this year, indicative that this is a do-or-die year for him?

I see Freeman as a solid quarterback for the team. He's not elite, no, but he did get near that in 2010, so he has the ability to be great in the league. In fact, that squad was arguably less talented than the current offensive batch the Buccaneers have.

Perhaps that's why Freeman is on a short leash. While the Buccaneers have gotten better around Freeman, he seems to have gotten worse. Thirty-nine interceptions the last two seasons and a completion percentage under 55 percent is not indicative of a good player.

His completion percentage was 29th in the league, and his interceptions were tied for fifth. On the plus side, he did go over the 4,000-yard mark. The combination of fewer completed passes and more yards is quite telling.

Perhaps more important than all of that is a simple dollar sign. His rookie contract is up at the end of the 2013 season, and Greg Schiano and company are going to have to decide whether he is worth investing long-term or whether they need to explore new options.

That is part of the reason Glennon has been brought in. He is not a day-one starter, not even close, and while he will push Freeman in training camp, there's no chance he starts the first week, barring injury.

However, with a year under his belt, Glennon as a 2014 starter is not out of the question, and it all depends on whether Freeman sinks or floats.

There are struggling quarterbacks out there whom you can point at and say he does not have any help. Freeman is certainly not one of them. Doug Martin is a duel threat who can catch, and Mike Williams has remained great even when behind standout Vincent Jackson.

With a year under his belt, Luke Stocker should be able to take the tight end reins full-time, and even if he is not a great receiving option, Freeman has three others who will be on the field for the majority of snaps.

At the same time, Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan did not draft Freeman, so they don't have a stake in him, even though he was a first-round pick. That comes into play big time, since if he and Glennon look about the same in the next five years, management will go with their guy.

The NFC South is not an easy division. The Falcons seem to get better on offense every year, and if the Saints and Panthers rebound from disappointing seasons, then the Buccaneers will have to fight hard for wins.

It is in those division games that the Freeman of 2010 has to show up. No more costly interceptions, no more "when he's bad, he's really bad" type of games and, most importantly, no fading down the stretch.

Freeman controls his own destiny. Williams, Martin, Jackson and the rest of the players will do what they have to do. The rest can be All-Pros, but if he throws four interceptions in a game twice, then it won't matter.

I see Freeman as a much better quarterback than Glennon moving forward, and Freeman shows great flashes at times. He didn't even hit the double-digit mark for interceptions until Week 14 when it all unraveled.

It's no question that 2013 is do-or-die for Freeman. He has the talent in place to have a great offense that can stand up with the rest of the NFC. He just has to be more consistent.

If he has a bad game, he has to reign that in and move past it. If he struggles for games at a time like he has for two years now, then that's going to be it for him in Tampa Bay.