The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked Josh Freeman to the curb and the Minnesota Vikings kindly picked him up.
I know what you are thinking, great another terrible quarterback for a temporary fix. Well, let me try to convince you why you are wrong.
I didn’t see Josh Freeman play at Kansas State a whole lot. Instead, I began paying attention when I picked him late in the 2010 Fantasy Football season to replace my injured quarterback. As it turns out, that was the year to have him because his 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions were a big reason why I won the league.
I arrogantly drafted him the following year, talking him up like he was the steal of the draft. The league laughed in my face when his turnover ratio dropped to 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions with a completion rate well below 60 percent. I bailed on him pretty quickly, making a move for Matt Ryan and finishing second in the league.
My league mates will always hold the Freeman pick over my head, making jokes about how he was supposed to be the greatest quarterback ever. I don’t have much ground to stand on when he continues to fall down the slope further and further, but I stand by the potential I see.
Josh Freeman was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a laundry list of reasons. He was blamed for missing important meetings, being late for practice, doing an unauthorized interview with ESPN and being less than stellar on the field (43 percent completion rate and three interceptions through three games).
All this does not look to good for him, no doubt, but the Buccaneers are a mess on many levels. Head Coach Greg Schiano has no idea what he is doing. Schiano is the same guy who sent his defensive lineman blitzing Eli Manning in the victory formation. He is leading a very talented team in the wrong direction.
Schiano lost faith in Freeman a long time ago and as a result never put him in situations to succeed. Freeman was never going to succeed with a coach that had no faith in him and an organization that was doing everything it could to get rid of him. Well almost everything. Instead of quietly trying to trade him for performance issues, they attacked Freeman’s work ethic, making him out to be a terrible guy. No team is going to trade a draft pick for a guy that is inevitably going to get cut.
Now, Freeman is not a saint in all of this. I’m sure some of the accusations were true, but I like to give him the benefit of the doubt. How would you like to go into work every day knowing that your boss has no faith in you? It has to wear on you.
Why the Vikings?
Freeman wanted out, he was released and the Minnesota Vikings swooped in and grabbed him.
The Vikings are in great situation for Freeman. The fan base has given up on the team’s first round quarterback Christian Ponder. He was limited in his abilities and has shown no sign of improvement.
Conveniently Ponder is dealing with a shoulder injury, leaving the team to turn to Matt Cassel. Cassel was impressive in a victory against the struggling Steelers. He gave the team a resemblance of a passing game, reminding us all that Greg Jennings is a Viking now.
If Ponder is truly injured and unable to suit up, that leaves the Vikings with no backup to Matt Cassel other than their “athlete” Joe Webb. Freeman can come in, learn the playbook and at minimum be the safety blanket the team needs.
But that is not the extent of what Freeman is going to do for the Vikings. It may take a week or so for Freeman to get settled in, but expect him to fight for the starting job this season.
Freeman is 6-feet-6-inches tall and weighs 240 pounds. He is big enough to stand tall in the pocket, but is most successful when he rolls out, creating space and time for his receivers. Do you remember watching Ben Roethlisberger continuously scramble and shed tackles a week ago? It is frustrating to see a sack disappear isn’t it? Well Freeman’s big body gives him the ability to do the same thing. He is tough to take down and is able to make something out of nothing.
Freeman gives the Vikings something they should of had all along: a play action game. When you have one of the best running backs in the history of the NFL, you should be the best play action team in the league. Defenses are scared to death of Adrian Peterson and as soon as they see a motion to give him the ball they commit to stop him.
This may be a new concept to Vikings fans, but when you have a quarterback that can confidently make throws, you can use play action for huge gains. It is something the Houston Texans have been great at over the last few years with Arian Foster and they have a pretty mediocre quarterback in Matt Schaub. Christian Ponder never could take advantage of the play action because after he turns to fake he turns back, looks up field nervously and under throws the ball by 10 yards.
Freeman has the arm strength to make these passes and he also has the threat to run it himself. Imagine the possibilities. Bill Musgrave can call play action passes or play action bootlegs were Freeman can roll out and pick up the yards himself.
Musgrave supporters have always said that he was limited because of Ponder’s lack of ability and arm strength. Freeman should allow him to open the playbook up, making the offense much more dynamic.
Vikings fans are sick of getting other team’s used quarterbacks. They want to get a franchise guy like Andrew Luck in the draft so that they can be set for many years to come. I get that. I would love to see that myself, but it is not that easy.
For the most part the Vikings are built to win now. They have good receivers and an elite running back on offense and a solid pass rush with a young secondary on defense.
History says that Adrian Peterson has about three seasons of elite production left. Yes, he is Superhuman, but a running back with his running style who has gone through major knee surgery is no guarantee. The Vikings want to get all they can out of him, but they would also love to get him to a Super Bowl.
They can sit around waiting for the next Andrew Luck in the draft for years. They don’t come often. Plus, when you have Adrian Peterson, you probably are not going to have the two win season you need to get that first overall draft pick that allows you to get that guy.
To take advantage of Peterson’s best years the Vikings need to find talented enough players to compliment him. Josh Freeman is not going to be Peyton Manning, but at his best, he is going to give the team a good chance to win now.
Freeman comes in with a chip on his shoulder. He is not happy with how things played out in Tampa Bay. The change of scenery is good for him. He will be motivated to bounce back and will get an opportunity to play for a coaching staff that stayed loyal to the less-than-adequate Christian Ponder. It is a situation he should be able to succeed in.
Good signing by the Vikings. I am more optimistic for their future than I have been in quite some time.