TAMPA — John McNulty heard a lot of things about Bucs QB Josh Freeman before becoming his fourth position coach in five years.
Nearly all good.
"There's not one person that said, 'Good luck with him,' " said McNulty, who coached quarterbacks last season for the Cardinals. "Everybody has said, 'I'll take him. You don't want him? I'll take him.' And that's guys who have good quarterbacks and guys who are struggling."
Freeman became the first Buc to pass for more than 4,000 yards last season and finished with a club-record 27 touchdowns. But he also threw 17 interceptions and saw a 6-4 start become a 7-9 season.
McNulty, an offensive coordinator under Bucs coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, said Freeman should benefit from being in the system under coordinator Mike Sullivan for the second straight season as well as having much of the same surrounding skill players.
"The biggest thing was his command and control of the offense. That's what I told him before this offseason," McNulty said. "And so far on the field and in the meetings with the players, he's demonstrated that with the players. You can't fake it. He has to have it. And I think he's demonstrated that on the field so far."
Freeman is entering the final year of his contract, what many consider a make-or-break season.
"There are a lot of guys who would take him today," McNulty said. "Everybody I talk to says he's tremendously talented, a great person, football savvy, will do anything you ask him to do and just really needs to have a chance to have a consistent structure around him as far as his system, his coaches and people he can kind of rely on, the players he's playing with, all that. If that can kind of line up … and really, that kind of goes for anybody. But he's kind of caught a lot of the flak for that."
CARIMI ADDS COMPETITION: The Bucs are cautiously optimistic Gabe Carimi can, at minimum, provide depth for an offensive line that was hit hard by injuries in 2012.
"I think it provides competition, which is our favorite word," GM Mark Dominik said. "It provides competition at right tackle. It also adds a lot of depth to our team and provides a guy who can play inside at guard, which he did last year. It gives you incredible depth."
The key will be how much Carimi, 24, acquired from the Bears for a sixth-round pick Sunday, has recovered from his right knee injury. Dominik said he studied Carimi's 2012 film and said the injury — a partial dislocation of the kneecap sustained Sept. 18, 2011, against the Saints that required multiple surgeries — affected his play.
Now that he's further removed from the injury, the Bucs hope they can get more out of Carimi, the 29th overall pick in 2011. His offensive line coach at Wisconsin, Bob Bostad, joined the Bucs in the same capacity last season and said he is eager to work with him.
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"What we're looking for is for Gabe to just come in here and compete," Bostad said. "Do what he did for me for four years at Wisconsin. Be physical, be tough, be a smart football player.
"I'm definitely excited to have a guy who you have a relationship with, who you have a history with. You've trained him."
Meanwhile … : Despite the trade, Demar Dotson remains the incumbent right tackle. The Bucs re-signed him this offseason, but his base salary for 2013, $2 million, ensures him nothing.
"Certainly, it's nice to have the competition at the tackle spot," Dominik said. "But Dotson has four years of NFL ball now that he's been around, and I think that's helpful. He took great strides. That's why we … kept him around. And he's versatile, too, because he can flip to the left side as well.
"The flexibility (in exchange) for a sixth-round pick just made too much sense."
No DEMPS: Ex-Florida KR Jeff Demps was excused from the mandatory minicamp that begins today. The 2012 Olympic sprinter will concentrate on track during the summer.
TICKETS: Tickets for the Sept. 15 regular-season home opener against the Saints go on sale at 10 a.m. June 19.