The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' contentious relationship with quarterback Josh Freeman has finally come to an end. On Thursday morning, the Buccaneers released Freeman after trying to trade him for over a week. This followed a timeline of Freeman being benched before the Bucs' 13-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, and there are those who have accused the team of leaking information about his involvement in the NFL's drug program.
"We made the decision today to release Josh Freeman," general manager Mark Dominik said in a statement released by the team. "We appreciate his efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers."
Freeman and second-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano seemed destined for a messy breakup. After the 2012 season, Tampa Bay selected North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round, and Schiano talked early and often about involving Glennon heavily in the preseason.
“What I can say is, a 4,000-yard passer, a touchdown record -- there’s a lot of things you say, ‘Wow,’” Schiano told the Tampa Bay Times when asked about Freeman last December. “Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah. There’s things that frustrate [about] him, too. And I’m not ducking the question, because quite frankly, I really like Josh Freeman. But I want to make sure I don’t get ahead of my skis at all here and really evaluate every single thing to what’s best for this organization. Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. So, I hope that happens here. But again, at the end of the day, I have to evaluate everything before I can say that’s what we’re doing.”
Freeman completed just 43-of-94 passes for 571 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in three games this season. But the schism between quarterback and coach seemed to be as much about personal dysfunction than anything happening on the field.
In a recent article for TheMMQB.com, Andrew Brandt wrote that after speaking to several Buccaneers players, he sensed an atmosphere of "fear and distrust" in the organization.
Players have told their agents about coaches roaming through the locker room (typically the players’ sanctuary away from coaches) and staff videotaping players on the sidelines during losses to single out players laughing or horsing around. The players also speak to the influx of multiple Rutgers players from Schiano’s past and the use of the phrase “Schiano Men,” a term that clearly does not apply to Freeman.
And though Freeman was clearly not a "Schiano Man" for whatever reason, it's on the coach for polluting Freeman's value publicly. Freeman didn't show up for the team photo -- a faux pas made public, was fined for giving an unauthorized interview to ESPN and was left to release a statement about his battles with ADHD after it was leaked that Freeman was a Stage 1 participant in the NFL's drug program. Freeman's agent, Erik Burkhardt, has accused the team of trying to blacken his client's name. Freeman was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft and had one season left on his rookie contract. He is due a total of $8.43 million in base salary this season, and the Bucs are on the hook for all of it. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that since there are no offsets in Freeman's contract, he will pocket that full base and whatever he gets from a new team when he is signed elsewhere.