Jul 13, 2012
During his impressive sophomore campaign quarterback Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers connected on 25 touchdown passes versus just half a dozen interceptions, while posting the sixth-best QB Rating in the league. Unfortunately in 2011, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount, two big reasons Freeman and the Bucs found success in 2010, were unable to perform at the same level as the team collapsed to a 4-12 record. Freeman was not immune as he was intercepted 22 times, second to only Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 23 picks, and threw it the other way at least once in 11 of his 15 starts in addition to owning seven multi-interception games. Freeman also lost one fumble in each of his last five starts after totaling five lost fumbles in his previous 36 games played.
Thankfully both the team and Freeman have made significant changes to ensure the disasters of last season do not repeat themselves. The Buccaneers, one of the cheaper teams in recent years, opened up the check book to ink wide receiver Vincent Jackson and made All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks the highest paid guard in league history. Outspoken tight end Kellen Winslow was traded away while the oft-injured Dallas Clark was signed to replace him. Another big addition came on draft day with the first round selection of running back Doug Martin, who can pass protect and catch the football, addressing two big holes in Blount’s game.
Clearly, the supporting cast around Freeman has received significant upgrades in nearly every department. But the 24-year-old product from Kansas State is working to better himself, dropping 20 pounds in the offseason to improve his mobility and elusiveness in the pocket. While not an elite scrambler, Freeman has shown the ability to use his feet to pick up decent chunks of yardage when the situation calls for it. He’s also got new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who had excellent results with Eli Manning while in the Big Apple as the New York Giants quarterback coach, in his ear and rebuilding Freeman’s approach from the fundamentals on up.
With former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano taking over the Bucs defense, which has been anemic for the better part of three seasons, should receive a large boost. If Tampa Bay can put together at least something of mediocre defense it will allow Freeman to direct an offense with some field position and not battling the time left on the scoreboard, a big issue from a year ago. Schiano likes a fairly conservative offense which figures to highlight Martin, who is built from a similar mold to that of Rutgers standout Ray Rice.
Everything is in place for Freeman to not only return to form but put together a career year. Lost in the shuffle of the 2011 meltdown was Freeman’s 62.8 completion percentage, a personal best and good for eighth in the league among qualified quarterbacks. Assuming Williams comes to camp in shape this year he’ll create a formable duo with Jackson, a 6’5″ matchup nightmare for any defender in the league. Martin will provide the safety value Freeman has been lacking and a cheap source of safe yardage. Anything Clark can offer is gravy but his injury history makes one skeptical on his contributions for an entire season.
All told, Freeman, ranked outside of the top-15 quarterbacks on draft day by most, is an excellent late-round selection for those that taking a signal caller with injury concerns, like a Michael Vick or a Matt Schaub. In a two-QB league he supplies plenty of potential to be a No. 2 starter. If your league roster size is large enough to draft a backup QB, consider Freeman for the trade value a breakout season would yield regardless on your first option at the position.