Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Freeman on verge of big payday


Even if Bucs QB Josh Freeman only duplicates his production from last season — 4,065 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions — he would become the NFL's most coveted player in free agency in 2014.

That's what NFL scouts will tell you, and it's easy to see why.

Freeman is only 25 and already has 56 starts. He is 6 feet 6, 235 pounds, and has arm strength, mobility and athleticism.

Freeman's 78 touchdown passes rank first in franchise history. And by the end of 2013, he will likely hold the records for passing attempts and yards.

How rare is it for such a young quarterback to accrue that much experience and production?

"Very rare," Bucs quarterbacks coach John McNulty said. "People talk about consistency. That's all part of it, too, to be that young and have that much responsibility. The city, the team, everybody is looking at you. That's how the position goes. A lot of times that can break a guy.

"Josh was thrown right in the fire right away. He hit it big. He hit it low. There were ups and downs. But I think a lot of other guys could've been broken by that, and he just keeps going. Now when he's got all this experience behind him, people are saying, 'This is it. This is the last year of your contract.' "

Given the contracts signed by quarterbacks this year — the Cowboys' Tony Romo, six years, $108 million, $18 million annual average; the Lions' Matthew Stafford, five years, $76.5 million, $15.3 million average, and the Falcons' Matt Ryan, five years, $103.75 million, $20.75 million average — Freeman is headed for a big payday, barring injury.

Granted, what Freeman lacks on his resume is a playoff appearance. That said, Stafford is 0-1 in the postseason and missed most of his first two seasons with injuries. Romo is 1-3 in the playoffs. Ryan won his first playoff game last season in taking the Falcons to the NFC title game.

So is it shortsighted of the Bucs to allow Freeman to go into his contract year without a new deal?

Aside from the perceived lack of confidence from the organization and the risk of injury, Freeman has more leverage than the Bucs. If he has a great season, Tampa Bay could apply its franchise or transition player tag ($14.896 million/$13.068 million in 2013) and retain Freeman's rights.

But as the Saints discovered a few years ago when they tagged QB Drew Brees, that can have serious salary cap implications. The Bucs have some large contracts on the books for 2014: DT Gerald McCoy, $10.295 million; WR Vincent Jackson, $10 million; LG Carl Nicks, $9.357 million cap hit;, RG Davin Joseph, $6 million, and S Dashon Goldson, $9 million cap hit.

"I love being a Buccaneer," Freeman said. "I love my teammates. I love my coaches. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now I'm just trying to be the best Josh Freeman I can be, whether it's in the community, on the football field or in my personal life. I'll let the rest take care of itself."

Or should it have been taken care of already?

Keep an eye on: A converted quarterback from Nebraska-Omaha, TE Zach Miller was plagued by shoulder, knee and foot injuries during his three seasons in Jacksonville. But he has the size (6-4, 245), speed and hands to become a receiving threat. The Bucs also like TE Danny Noble. But as his weight has increased to about 260 pounds, his speed has decreased. Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree, barring injuries, should be the top tight ends.

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

Freeman on verge of big payday 07/27/13 [Last modified: Saturday, July 27, 2013 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fennelly: Even frustrated Bucs fans hold out hope


    Many fans wrote back when I threw out an all-points the other day, asking if Bucs fans are perpetually in a state of expecting the worst.

    Bucs fans cheer during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August at Raymond James Stadium.
  2. Bucs snapper Garrison Sanborn looking forward to return to Bills


    Throughout his eight seasons with the Bills, whenever former players would come to Buffalo for a game, Garrison Sanborn remembers the place to take them for a reunion dinner was a popular Italian …

    Garrison Sanborn enjoyed just one winning season in eight years in Buffalo. [AP photo]
  3. J.T. Brown said first protest already sparked action plan


    Lightning wing J.T. Brown said part of the reason he will no longer raise his fist during the national anthem is because his first silent protest has already sparked an action plan.

    J.T. Brown stressed that he got a lot of support from the Lightning, from ownership on down to help put him in situations to help.
  4. Bucs' Mike Evans, Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines could face off again


    Bucs receiver Mike Evans has gone up against four Pro Bowl cornerbacks in five games, and on Sunday he could be lining up against a corner he has a history with in Buffalo's E.J. Gaines.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a touchdown catch over Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28)  Sunday  in Glendale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: The importance of Kwon Alexander's return


    Greg Auman talks the importance of Kwon Alexander's return Sunday in Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, pictured during training camp in July at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]