Josh Freeman Must Start in Tampa

Stephen ZsigaContributor IJuly 4, 2009

TAMPA, FL - MAY 01:  Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers works out during the Buccaneers Rookie Minicamp at One Buccaneer Place on May 1, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

With the 2009 NFL Season right around the corner, the matters at hand begin to arise.  It is especially the case in places like Cleveland, Detroit and Tampa, where, as they say, "If you have more than one quarterback, you have none." 

Despite making offseason acquisitions including the signing of free agent Byron Leftwich, and the re-signing of Luke McCown, Josh Freeman needs to be the man in Tampa in 2009 and going forward.

Jeff Garcia was ousted from the Bay Area, as were a lot of other key veterans from the Bucs this past offseason.  Moves such as the release of 11-time probowler Derrick Brooks, and the firings of GM Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden show that the Bucs are heavily involved in the middle of a thorough youth movement. 

With rookie head coach Raheem Morris now taking over the team, and rookie quarterback Freeman, whom Morris worked with at Kansas State, the pieces seem in place for a potential long-term relationship.  After all, one would not draft a quarterback in the first round if the idea of "franchise" did not come to mind.  That is what Morris and the Buccaneers feel Freeman can bring to the table.

As the offseason OTAs and mini-camps ran their course, Freeman began to win over the coaching staff with each passing practice.  Heading into training camp, which for the Bucs kicks off Saturday, Aug. 1, the Bucs officially have their quarterback spot listed as "an open competition." 

However, Freeman must be the starter moving forward and starting this 2009 season.  Drafting the Junior with their first pick in the draft made a huge statement, especially with the pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball. 

Ronde Barber is getting old, as evident by him being burned several times during the 2008 campaign.  Yet, he remains atop the Bucs depth chart with counterpart Aqib Talib for the 2009 season.  Derrick Brooks, who despite being in his mid-thirties, came off a pro-bowl season, is still searching for a job. 

With a change in the defensive scheme, going from the Tampa-Two to a more basic blitz-heavy defense, the types of players that the Bucs would need on defense has changed.  However, after all of that evidence, the Bucs still felt moving forward that they needed that franchise guy, so they drafted Freeman.

By no means was this move a make-or-break move for Morris and the Buccaneers.  Regardless of if Freeman is the starter in '09, he is on the Bucs' list for the future. 

With offensive weapons such as newly signed Kellen Winslow and Derrick Ward, and returning stars such as Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham, and Antonio Bryant, the Bucs have a strong base of talent to surround whoever their starter is in 2009.  But when a first round pick is used on a quarterback, and when the team who selects this quarterback is in the midst of all around changes, why not wipe the entire slate completely clean and start the rookie in '09?

Looking back on '08 showed similar successful situations.  Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Joe Flacco in Baltimore, both with rookie head coaches, led their teams into the playoffs last season. 

Neither team had asked either signal caller for the world, but they put their guys in position to succeed, and that is exactly what they did.  If Morris and the Buccaneers play their cards right with Freeman and his development in the National Football League, the Buccaneers could be that dark horse that strives despite the rest of the league expecting nothing from them.