Most Likely Landing Spots for Josh Freeman
The Josh Freeman saga with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has finally ended.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the 0-4 NFC South club released its benched quarterback after it was unable to trade him.
In 2010, he threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, and Tampa Bay went 10-6.
With Freeman on the open market, let's explore the most logical landing spots.
To some, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most obvious potential landing spot for Freeman.
He's regressed since his highly efficient 2010 campaign and it's doubtful that any NFL front office views him as an instant franchise savior.
But that doesn't mean he's not valuable.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the Jaguars will use their 2014 first-round draft selection on a quarterback.
While that rookie would be the favorite to win the starting job next season, Jacksonville doesn't currently have a viable backup on the roster.
Blaine Gabbert's failed as a starter, but Chad Henne has been terrible during his time as a stand-in. During the 13 games in which he's appeared for the Jaguars, the former Miami Dolphins signal-caller has completed 54.4 percent of his passes and thrown 12 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.
In 2013, Henne's averaged 238 yards passing in two games a starter, with a single touchdown and two interceptions.
Basically, starting the 2014 campaign with a prized rookie and Freeman as the team's quarterbacks would be a dramatic upgrade over the current quarterback situation.
If the rookie experiences some bumps in the road early, Freeman would be a viable plan B.
The Cincinnati Bengals are in win-now mode with Andy Dalton in his third professional season and an abundance of skill-position talent on both sides of the football.
However, Dalton appears to be the main culprit holding the talented team back.
In fairness, he's shown improvement during the first month of the 2013 season. His completion percentage is a career-high 63.5 percent, and he's thrown for an average of 250.8 yards per game.
The question is, has Dalton made big enough strides to push the Bengals past the first round of the playoffs?
Even if Cincinnati's coaching staff still fully believes in him, it wouldn't be the worst idea to look toward the future at the game's most vital position.
The Bengals can't be faulted for not offering a draft pick for Freeman, because they aren't desperate, but now that the strong-armed signal-caller is available, they could bring him in as possible competition or even as a potential successor to Dalton if the 2011 second-round pick continues his inconsistent ways.
In 2012, Freeman's deep passing—throws that traveled at least 20 yards down the field—accuracy percentage was 37.1, while Dalton's was 32.8, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The year before, Freeman was the third-most accurate downfield passer in football.
Ten quarterbacks were more accurate on short plays than Dalton.
Cincinnati may be interested in pairing Freeman with stalwart deep-ball target A.J. Green as the wideout enters the prime of his career.
The Minnesota Vikings are in a pickle.
They made the playoffs in 2012 thanks to a legendary season from running back and eventual NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
They signed right tackle Phil Loadholt to a contract extension in March.
In free agency, they signed the elder yet still explosive wide receiver Greg Jennings.
In the draft, they selected wideout Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round.
Essentially, Minnesota made the environment around quarterback Christian Ponder as conducive to success as possible.
In the first three outings of 2013, the third-year signal-caller completed 59 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions.
He injured his ribs and was replaced by Matt Cassel for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. The former hapless Kansas City Chiefs quarterback went 16-of-25 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in victory.
Is Cassel the future for the Vikings? Probably not. Ponder doesn't appear to be the future, either.
Therefore, this relatively talented team with a somewhat dire quarterback situation should bring in Freeman to at least shake things up.
The Arizona Cardinals banked on the Bruce Arians-Carson Palmer dynamic in 2013.
While that duo has been a significant upgrade over Ken Whisenhunt and Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley a season ago, how many more years will Palmer be considered the answer?
He'll be 34 in late December and hasn't gotten off to the best start with the Cardinals, as he's completed 57.2 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and six interceptions.
Freeman certainly has the arm to fit Arians' system that's predicated on long-developing vertical routes, and with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and a decent defense, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller wouldn't be joining a totally rebuilding franchise.
If Palmer flames out, there's a chance Arizona looks to draft a quarterback, but Freeman, at the very least, would be respectable competition and a serviceable backup.
The Oakland Raiders are excited about Terrelle Pryor, and they should be.
At 6'4'' and 233 pounds, he's a special athlete, capable of escaping the pocket and making plays with his feet.
However, he's shown much more refinement in terms of pocket presence and ability to throw the football accurately than many expected.
Behind him sits Matt Flynn, who hasn't inspired any hope for the future.
Simply put, it's fine if the Raiders plan to move ahead with Pryor as their franchise quarterback, but Freeman, who has a similar, albeit less spectacular, skill set to Pryor, would be a major upgrade over Flynn as the No. 2 signal-caller on the depth chart.
Also, and maybe most importantly, Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson was Freeman's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay from 2009 to 2011.
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers could be a dark horse to sign Freeman, and it actually would be pretty logical.
Philip Rivers is playing out of his mind—or at least where his mind was in 2010—under head coach Mike McCoy this season.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old Rivers' quarterback rating is 118.8 heading into Week 5.
Behind him on the depth chart is Charlie Whitehurst and 2013 seventh-round pick Brad Sorensen.
Rivers has played in every possible game since he took over the Chargers' starting-quarterback job in 2006.
However, how many seasons of high-caliber play does Rivers have left?
If nothing else, Freeman could come to San Diego, learn from Rivers and McCoy—who'd be tremendous teachers—and be groomed to take over when Rivers calls it quits or is rendered completely ineffective.
For a team that's in a mini-rebuild, there was no reason for the Chargers to relinquish a draft pick to add Freeman, but now, he'd be a cheap, low-risk and relatively safe long-term project.