Monday, October 07, 2013

Josh Freeman has Vikings pondering future (or will Christian soon be a Free Man?)

Heh. See what I did there? The blog post title? I slay me.

Ahem. Anyhow, about that new Vikings quarterback.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings gave Freeman a one-year deal worth about $3 million, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

All totaled, Freeman will make more than $11.4 million until he becomes a free agent this winter, factoring in the $2.479 million the Bucs paid him at the start of the season, the $5.9 million in termination pay from the team, and his new deal with Minnesota.

Freeman also had been linked to the Bills and Raiders since being released by the Bucs on Thursday after a tumultuous season for the quarterback and the team that made him the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

The Vikings add Freeman to a quarterback depth chart that already includes Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel -- who started in place of an injured Ponder in Minnesota's only win of the season.

As a Vikings fan, I like the signing. Not that I'm 100% sold on Freeman being the face of the franchise over the next decade. But why I'm most pleased is the fact the Vikings organization has acknowledged that Ponder (who was considered a reach as the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft) has been given ample opportunity to step and be the QB of the future, yet hasn't put it together. At times this season it appeared he had regressed. I appreciate the fact that GM Rick Spielman (the man who drafted Ponder and has been his biggest apologist) was willing to swallow his pride and explore other options. That said, this is a relatively low risk move. The Vikings only have Freeman signed to this season, and they didn't have to surrender any draft choices to to acquire him. Freeman will likely be the starter not this week but the following week when the Vikes take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

The hope here is Freeman can indeed step up and be the franchise quarterback. At age 25, the opportunity is still there for him to recapture the prowess he showed in 2012 when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdown passes.

Ideally teams like to draft their potential franchise QB, develop him and have him lead the squad to Super Bowl glory. In the 53-year history of the Vikings, they have had arguably two franchise QBs (Fran Tarkenton and Daunte Culpepper, both of whom were drafted) who came even close to fulfilling that promise. But sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery. Many identify Drew Brees as the all-world quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. But the first five years of his career were spent in San Diego, where he put up pretty good (but far from great) stats. In fact, you look at Brees's numbers with the Chargers and compare them to Freeman's stats with the Bucs, they're eerily similar.

Games started: Brees - 58; Freeman - 59
Pass yards: Brees - 12,348; Freeman - 13,534
TD passes: Brees - 80; Freeman - 80
Completion percentage: Brees - 62.2%; Freeman - 58.2%
Yards per pass attempt: Brees - 6.8; Freeman - 6.9
QB rating: Brees - 84.9; Freeman - 78.8

Now am I suggesting that Freeman will become this high-octane passing machine and lead the Vikings to their first Super Bowl championship like Brees has done with the Saints? No (But a guy can dream, can't he?). All I'm saying is that the ol' "change of scenery" talking point tends to become too cliche. But's it not unprecedented that a professional athlete can flourish when given the proverbial clean slate with a different franchise.


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