Freeman wants to be traded or released, as reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, and after the way he's been treated, he deserves to have his request met:
Josh Freeman told me this AM he'd like to get traded or released, says he doesn't want to be a distraction and it's time both sides move on— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) September 29, 2013
Albert Breer reported on Tuesday, Oct. 1 that the Buccaneers have been actively trying to trade him and want to have a deal done before Week 6's contest against the Philadelphia Eagles:
The Bucs have been actively shopping Josh Freeman, and could try to unload him before they start preparing for the Eagles next week.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 1, 2013
However, the latest reports coming from plugged-in sources around the league unanimously confirm that there is little interest in the Buccaneers' attempts to trade Freeman, as noted by ESPN's Ed Werder:
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik has made calls to about one-third of the teams in the NFL to determine whether there is interest in trading for Freeman, and the Buccaneers will have contacted every team by the end of the day, according to sources. Interest has been described as being mild.
The embattled quarterback was benched after Week 3, having played poorly in each of the team's first three games. Whether it was the right move from a football perspective remains to be seen, but he certainly earned his demotion.
In three games, he'd completed just 45.7 percent of his passes while throwing just two touchdowns and three interceptions. The offense was completely stagnant, and something needed to be done to influence a change.
After he was benched, word got out that Freeman had lost Tampa Bay's locker room, as noted by Justin Powlowski of CBS Tampa Bay, who also detailed a few clear-cut instances that illustrate Freeman's lack of leadership:
During the offense’s struggles to the New Orleans Saints in week 2, I made it a point to watch Freeman while he was on the sideline as much as I could, to see what type of interaction he had with his teammates during a game. Unfortunately, he had no interaction with anyone except Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan when he was on the sideline. Greg Schiano even called a offensive huddle during the game on the sideline, and had to yell to Freeman three times to join them.
Perhaps this is information that the general public needed to know, and perhaps it is not. Either way, there was nothing technically wrong with what the Bucs had done toward Freeman to this point in the proceedings.
But it didn't take long for the organization to cross the line.
First, he was forced to watch the team's Week 4 contest against the Arizona Cardinals after being deactivated for the game. The team called the decision "mutual," as noted by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Tribune, who reported Freeman's agent as saying it was a "Lie. Obviously":
The agent for Josh Freeman said Greg Schiano's claim that it was a 'mutual decision,' the QB watch from a suite Sun was a 'Lie. Obviously.'— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 29, 2013
For all intents and purposes, it appears the Buccaneers have already moved on without Freeman, without the benefit of giving him the same luxury.
Then, on Monday, Sept. 30, ESPN's Chris Mortensen tweeted out a message that started a media firestorm:
Sources: Josh Freeman in stage 1 http://t.co/GVsgjD9pAO— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 30, 2013
In Mortensen's report, he detailed the benign nature of Freeman's involvement in the NFL's drug program:
Freeman has obtained a temporary-use exemption for a prescription drug that normally would be on the banned list, the sources said.
In a statement released Monday night, Freeman said he has a prescription for Adderall to treat ADHD; however, last year he accidentally took Ritalin, which triggered a positive test. As a result of the positive test he submitted to frequent drug screenings, leading to his placement in stage one of the league's drug program.
Unfortunately for Freeman, "drug program" is a phrase that automatically causes most people to perceive it as negative. As such, he was forced to defend himself publicly after being publicly humiliated.
He isn't one strike away from a suspension, as noted by Mortensen, meaning this is information that NFL teams potentially interested in his services weren't even required to know about under the CBA.
As such, it's no surprise that the NFLPA is getting involved. Executive director DeMaurice Smith told Freeman he's looking into the leak, as well as the way in which the quarterback has been treated throughout this miserable process, as noted by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
NFLPA Exec Director DeMaurice Smith, in Tampa Bay today, told Josh Freeman he is investigating drug program leak/handling of QB by the team— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 1, 2013
Does Freeman deserve to be released?
Nobody needed to know about his involvement in the league's drug program—especially now. Whoever leaked the information essentially committed an act of character assassination, and at this point, the Buccaneers owe Freeman the courtesy of a release.
There's no doubt Freeman has some growing up to do as it pertains to leading a professional football team, but the young man has suffered enough at the hands of the Buccaneers.
Follow me on Twitter: @JesseReed78.