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Former Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has a lot riding on combine

Josh Freeman left Kansas State as the all-time leading passer in several categories, including completions (680), attempts (1,151), yards (8,078) and total offense (8,421 yards). “Obviously he’ll be a guy that somebody takes and somebody will be pretty happy with depending on the end of the day. But he’s a special talent now,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris says.

Kansas City Star

Josh Freeman left Kansas State as the all-time leading passer in several categories, including completions (680), attempts (1,151), yards (8,078) and total offense (8,421 yards). “Obviously he’ll be a guy that somebody takes and somebody will be pretty happy with depending on the end of the day. But he’s a special talent now,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris says.

INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Freeman walked into the interview room at Lucas Oil Stadium as Raheem Morris was headed out and they stopped to shake hands before falling into each other's arms like relatives reuniting at an airport.

Freeman, a 6-foot-6, 248-pound quarterback from Kansas State, spent one season with Morris when he was Wildcats defensive coordinator.

In a draft that isn't deep with elite quarterbacks, Freeman is the third-rated player at his position behind Georgia's Matt Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez.

Freeman came to the NFL scouting combine with much to prove. Because he is a junior, he wasn't eligible to play in postseason all-star games, and he didn't get an extra chance to perform in a bowl game after the Wildcats' 5-7 season.

But Morris already knows about Freeman's rocket right arm, his escape ability and his leadership qualities.

The Bucs also own the No. 19 overall pick and a long history of not drafting quarterbacks in early rounds. The highest draft choice the Bucs have used on a quarterback was a third-round selection for Chris Simms in 2003.

"Obviously, you look at him and he's a specimen to look at," Morris said of Freeman. "He can throw the ball. He just didn't win enough games at Kansas State.

"This is a big process for him. He's trying to get into the mix. Obviously he'll be a guy that somebody takes and somebody will be pretty happy with depending on the end of the day. But he's a special talent now. I remember him coming out of high school, he looked exactly the same. He might have grown an inch because he's got his little afro coming back. He's a smart, sharp, young detailed guy from a good family, and he's a talented player."

The Bucs appear pretty committed to Luke McCown after he signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract and was told he would compete for the starting job. Veteran Brian Griese and second-year pro Josh Johnson are the only other quarterbacks under contract, and Tampa Bay intends to bring four to training camp.

Most likely, it'll be another veteran to push McCown and potentially replace Griese as the No. 2. But the pool of available free-agent passers isn't going to quicken many pulses.

Jeff Garcia, who was told to move on by the Bucs, might be the best of the bunch. The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Matt Cassel but might make him available for a trade.

"Environment is important," Morris said. "What you do with a guy is important. You better do what Matt Cassel can do if you decide to take him, if you decide to trade for him. Those are the important things, those are the important issues."

After that, teams are looking at signing one-time starters like J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman.

So why not invest a late first-round pick on a quarterback like Freeman? Who does he compare to in the NFL?

"I'd say, first and foremost, (Pittsburgh's) Ben Roethlisberger for the size and ability to move around the pocket and extend the play," Freeman said. "And also (Philadelphia's) Donovan McNabb, just the way he harnesses his athletic ability and is still able to sit in the pocket and be a pocket passer."

Incidentally, those two quarterbacks have played in three of the past five Super Bowls.

Freeman set school marks for most completions (680), attempts (1,151), yards (8,078) and total offense (8,421 yards). His interceptions declined each season from 15 to 11 to eight; he had 382 attempts last season.

Freeman's workout today will go a long way toward determining his draft status.

"He'll show the big arm. He'll show accurate throws. He'll show the touch. He'll show the movement, all the steps," Morris said. "He'll do everything a quarterback needs to do and be pretty successful. He may be the sleeper, you never know."

Morris knows a lot about Freeman. The only question is whether that translates into the coach and quarterback reuniting in Tampa Bay.

"I don't know if it gives you an edge," Morris said of his inside knowledge. "Sometimes the more you know about a person, it hurts you a little bit. So it may hurt me. But knowing his character and his personality — the traits you would eliminate a guy for — I know all those things. So that's where it helps you. If the kid is talented, we're all going to know (today)."

Former Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has a lot riding on combine 02/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 22, 2009 8:25am]

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