TAMPA — Josh Freeman was on his way to One Buc Place to meet new quarterbacks coach Ron Turner last week and found it hard to contain his excitement about the start of a new offseason.
Freeman would like to take a giant eraser to last season's 4-12 record, 10 straight losses and, especially, 22 interceptions. In fact, new coach Greg Schiano described it as pushing "the reset button."
But Freeman doesn't want to forget all that he has learned.
"I really did feel like I was a better quarterback last year," Freeman, 24, said. "I know the interceptions stand out, but I was a lot more comfortable out there. I don't want to forget everything I've learned the last three years.
"The biggest thing looking back is I tried to force too many throws; whether it was because I felt pressure for us to make a big play or whatever. I know I can't do that, regardless of the situation."
Not all of Freeman's numbers were bad. He set career highs of 62.8 completion percentage and 3,592 passing yards despite missing one game to injury.
"He's very excited, very motivated, very fired up," GM Mark Dominik said. "I've been happy just seeing him. He's got his body in really great shape. He looks really good. You can tell he's been working out, nonstop, already. So that's been really encouraging. I'm not surprised either. That's who Josh was in 2009 and 2010, when he could be at and around the building."
Dominik believes Freeman, like many players on the youngest team in the NFL, was a casualty of the lockout and, as a consequence, no offseason workouts.
"A lot of the second-year (starting) quarterbacks didn't play their best ball last year, or maybe guys like (Rams QB Sam Bradford and Jets QB Mark Sanchez) didn't play their best ball," Dominik said. "Certainly Josh. I think (the lockout) did have an effect on the younger quarterbacks in our league. But now it's in the past, and it's what you do going forward."
FREE AGENT FOCUS: The free agent signing period begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Bucs have at least $67 million of salary cap space, most in the NFL. Dominik has repeatedly said he will be active in trying to lure top talent.
The biggest needs the Bucs would like to address are cornerback and receiver. Through multiple reports, Tampa Bay already has been linked to Titans CB Cortland Finnegan and Chargers WR Vincent Jackson. Chiefs CB Brandon Carr also will be highly sought.
Dominik and Schiano met Friday with CB Ronde Barber and invited him to return for a 16th season. Barber, who turns 37 next month, said he needs some time to decide. Regardless of Barber's future, the Bucs will pursue a cornerback through free agency and/or the draft.
TALIB update: The Bucs expect CB Aqib Talib to go to trial March 26 in Dallas County on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Talib won't accept a plea agreement because it would mean a suspension from the league. At this point, it doesn't appear prosecutors will drop charges. The Bucs feel fortunate they at least will have a resolution to Talib's status prior to the draft.