Green Bay Packers Can Offer Josh Freeman an Ideal Long-Term Situation
Filed to ESPN: Bucs have released QB Josh Freeman. Bucs tried to trade him but couldn't.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 3, 2013
Yet it is simply too difficult to envision a scenario in which a 25-year-old quarterback with rare physical skills chooses to sit behind one of the game's most entrenched players over a situation where he could start sooner rather than later.
However, there are few places Freeman could now go that would be better for his NFL prospects long-term than Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers was handed a $110 million contract this offseason, and there may not be another starting quarterback in Green Bay until he decides to hang up the cleats. But Freeman wouldn't go to Green Bay for a chance to start.
The Packers can actually offer an environment for developing and enhancing the winning attributes of a quarterback of his natural skill level. For the better part of his NFL career, Freeman has lacked this important factor in Tampa Bay.
Keep in mind, Freeman entered the NFL in 2009 as a first-round pick of first-year head coach Raheem Morris. A lenient, laid-back coach with a speciality on defense, Morris lasted just three seasons and is now the defensive backs coach with the Washington Redskins.
Freeman then inherited Greg Schiano, a former college coach mad with power. Their relationship was shaky at best and extremely toxic at worst. Schiano now doesn't look long for the Tampa Bay job, either.
Along the way, Freeman was blessed with quarterback coaches such as Ron Turner, who flamed out as the Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach during their 2-14 season in 2011, and Alex Van Pelt, who is now coaching running backs with the Packers. Most recently, Schiano hired John McNulty, who was fired after his work with the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks in 2012.
At no point in Tampa Bay did Freeman have the kind of stable, structured environment that currently exists in Green Bay under head coach Mike McCarthy. The Packers remain one of the NFL's model franchises, from top to bottom.
McCarthy is also widely respected as one of the game's most influential teachers of the quarterback position. Over 20 years of coaching in the NFL have put McCarthy in direct contact with the likes of Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Rodgers. Few know the position better.
McCarthy asked about Josh Freeman (who beat the #Packers at Lambeau Field in 2009): "I thought he was a young QB who has a bright future."— Paul Imig (@Paulimig) October 3, 2013
Freeman could help fill a potential hole behind Rodgers, too.
This past offseason, McCarthy and the Packers tried to find a backup in the likes of Graham Harrell (undrafted free agent), B.J. Coleman (seventh-round pick) and Vince Young (out of football since August 2012). Harrell never developed because of a lack of physical skills, Coleman struggled to figure out the game between the ears, and Young was simply too far behind the learning curve when he got to Green Bay.
In the days leading up to the season opener, the Packers settled on Seneca Wallace, a veteran quarterback with experience in the McCarthy offense. The organization seems content with having a player like Wallace in the meeting room with Rodgers, and his past in the West Coast offense under Mike Holmgren would give him a chance to play reasonably well if called upon in a pinch.
But adding a player like Freeman has to be appealing for McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson.
Rare is a quarterback who stands 6'6" and weighs 240 pounds while also possessing the arm and athletic talent of Freeman. He was a first-round pick for a reason, and he's flashed borderline elite skills at times in the NFL, mostly notably in 2010. That season, Freeman completed nearly 62 percent of his passes and tossed 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions.
There is obvious passing talent here to develop, but the worry is that Freeman will almost certainly pick a situation where he can battle to start this season instead of one where he would be forced to sit and learn in a positive environment.
Should the Packers entertain the idea of signing Josh Freeman as the new backup quarterback?
Signing with a quarterback-needy team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars or Oakland Raiders can provide Freeman with an opportunity to play in 2013. But it may also continue his pattern of unstable situations that clearly don't sync up with his development as a passer.
The Packers represent one option for Freeman that makes more sense long-term. He'd have to swallow his ego—which might be tough after what he's went through in Tampa Bay—and prepare to stand on the sideline for a season or two.
But one or two years learning under McCarthy and studying how Rodgers operates in a successful situation would provide the final building blocks for Freeman becoming the quarterback he wants to be. It would also give the Packers a backup option that could come in and be a capable player should Rodgers ever have to miss any time due to injury.
The pairing makes sense for both sides, especially in the long term. Freeman probably isn't thinking long term, however, and that makes Green Bay an unlikely landing spot.
Freeman will almost certainly sign with a team that needs a quarterback right now. That reality still doesn't discount what kind of impact the Packers organization could have on the 25-year-old quarterback down the road, when he could be better prepared to start in a more structured environment.
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