Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Flacco contract sets new target for Freeman

Good news for Josh Freeman.

Evidently, he's going to be able to afford that PlayStation 4, after all.

Now that you mention it, he's going to be able to afford everything else, too.

If you are Freeman, laid-back quarterback, chances are you had a familiar, time-honored reaction when you heard about the new contract between Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

It probably went something like this: Wheee!

Six years? One hundred and twenty million dollars? Fifty-two million of it guaranteed?

Ah, so this is what they mean by the big-money round.

And furthermore, yippee!

For the quarterbacks of the NFL, it is time to dance around the dinner table. The price of a day's work just went up again. Once Flacco signed his contract, the reaction was felt across the league.

From Aaron Rodgers to Matt Ryan, from Matt Stafford to Tony Romo, from Colin Kaepernick to Cam Newton, the message is the same: You can just stack the millions in the back of the Rolls if they fit.

That's the way it works in the NFL with breakthrough contracts. Every other agent of every other quarterback yells "ditto,'' and pretty soon, the room is filled with quarterbacks who can afford their own ATMs.

Flacco won a Super Bowl, you say? Hey, Rodgers has won one of those. He deserves a raise. Kaepernick came close. He should get more money, too. And Ryan and Stafford and Romo have had great statistics. Let's pay those guys, too. Suddenly, you don't have to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to make the big dollars.

And so it goes: Everyone has a reason to expect more money. Most of them will get it.

Now for the wow moment: Those big-moneyed quarterbacks might soon include Freeman, too.

Now, this is certain to drive them crazy down at the ticket lines where, no doubt, fans are gathering even as we speak. Already, Freeman is among the most polarizing figures in Bucs' history. He is perpetually caught between promise and delivery, and as such, there are some fans who consider him overpaid at any price. For those fans, stay tuned.

Even the moderates among us who think that Freeman is better than most people acknowledge also believe he has miles to go to be the quarterback the Bucs require him to be. Yes, Freeman threw for 4,000 yards in 2012, but no, he didn't discover a cure for the interception along the way.

There is an unevenness to the way Freeman plays quarterback. He is capable of five straight games with a rating of more than 100, then he is capable of back-to-back four-interception games. He is capable of fire coming down the stretch, and of sleepiness coming out of the gate.

It is little wonder, then, why the Bucs let Freeman ride out his contract for next year. He can be tantalizingly good, after all, and he can be befuddling bad. Why not see who he will be next?

It is as if the Bucs want to see good Josh battle against bad Josh as many times as possible before making up their mind. After all, with base and bonuses, Freeman will make roughly $10 million next season. Let's gather all the information we can, the Bucs seem to be saying, before we decide to pay him even more.

That way, if he bombs, if he regresses to 20-plus interceptions again, they can choose to let him walk.

That way, if he booms, if he leads the Bucs to the playoffs, they can pay him, oh, $16 million.

That way, if he is roughly the same as this year, they can start a new contract at $13 million a year or so.

Just wondering here, because it's not our money, but those choices kind of give you the dry mouth, don't they?

Part of this is the price of the position. Starting NFL quarterbacks, like rock stars and movie actors, tend to make a lot of money. After Flacco's contract, they're going to make more. The less you think about this, the better. You could pull something fretting about it.

It also shows just how big this season is for Freeman. He can't afford to be streaky, and he can't afford to be average. This year, Freeman has to show clearly that the Bucs are better with him than starting over with someone else.

Last year, there were times Freeman was good, and times he was not. There were times when the secondary was so bad it really didn't matter what Freeman did.

This year, Freeman has to prove that he is the heart of his team.

More important, he has to prove that he is the wallet.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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