By Max Luckan
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik struck out with the 2009 draft class. No player from that draft class is left on the Bucs roster, with quarterback Josh Freeman being the last to go this past Thursday.
“We made the decision today to release Josh Freeman,” Dominik said in a statement. “We appreciate his efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers.”
With the move, the Bucs finally admitted defeat. The 2009 draft class was a disaster. It was also Dominik’s first draft with the team as general manager, but that’s no excuse.
The truth is the Bucs wasted their time with Freeman. At times, Freeman looked like he could be the face of this Bucs franchise, setting records for passing yards and touchdowns and leading the team to a surprising 10-6 record in 2010. But then at other times, Freeman looked like a backup quarterback thrown into a starting role out of the blue. Interceptions and accuracy were always problems for Freeman, and command of his play and his offense was perhaps Freeman’s biggest flaw.
It was no coincidence that Freeman wasn’t elected a captain this season. One veteran offensive player, who reportedly preferred to remain anonymous, claimed that Freeman’s leadership abilities have been declining since that spectacular 2010 season. No one knows the reason for Freeman’s inconsistency, or at least, it can be attributed to multiple things. But everyone noticed that Freeman never looked comfortable, except for the occasional hot streak here and there.
When Bucs head coach Greg Schiano came to Tampa, he inherited Freeman as his starting quarterback. Schiano wasted no time, dropping hints from time to time suggesting that he wasn’t completely sold on Freeman. The most obvious hints came when the Bucs chased quarterback Carson Palmer in free agency and then ultimately drafted quarterback Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State in the third round of the draft. Right from the beginning, Schiano wanted a viable alternative to Freeman because he wasn’t convinced that Freeman could ever be the guy in Tampa.
So when Freeman’s play started deteriorating rapidly, slowly but surely, Schiano was getting his wish, which was letting Glennon take the reins of the offense. Then the drama started. Freeman missed the team photo, he was late to multiple meetings, and Freeman was enrolled in the NFL’s substance abuse program, which was actually a non-issue.
No one knows exactly how all Freeman’s missteps became public knowledge all of a sudden, and Schiano has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. While there’s no way to prove that Schiano leaked information to the media, he being the source of all this information is the most logical connection one can draw.
The assault on Freeman’s character by Schiano, or whoever it was, was a bit much. After all, the Bucs were trying to trade Freeman, so they would have no reason to leak all of the negative intelligence they had on Freeman.
But whoever exposed Freeman really did harm to his reputation for the time being. Dominik called all 31 teams to gauge their interest in a trade for Freeman and all 31 declined, reasoning that the Bucs were going to release him anyway. And they were right.
Ultimately, this was the right move for both sides. Freeman now gets a chance to recalibrate with another team and the Bucs can try to focus on building a winning football team.
The Bucs will pay the remaining $6.25 million of Freeman’s salary, while he is free to sign a new deal with any team, and early indications are that will happen very soon.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.