Coming out of their Week 5 bye, the Minnesota Vikings will add a quarterback to the mix with the reported signing of Josh Freeman to a one-year deal on Sunday night. He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week after being demoted and then deactivated for Week 4, and multiple teams reportedly had interest before the Vikings apparently stepped up with a concrete contract offer.
The question now is how Freeman fits with the Vikings, with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and McLeod Bethel-Thompson currently on the roster. Bethel-Thompson is a candidate to be moved to the practice squad or he could simply be released, while Ponder (ribs) is injured and the Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 with Cassel starting. At this point Cassel looks likely to start again in Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers, but could Freeman come right in and earn the starting job?
Freeman threw for a Buccaneers’ franchise record 4,065 passing yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012, but his completion percentage was dismal (54.8 percent) as he continued to regress after his breakout 2010 season (25 touchdowns, six interceptions). A change of scenery should do him a lot of good, after he clashed with Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano and the organization looks likely to have leaked details of his involvement in the league’s drug program, which effectively eliminated any chance to trade him prior to releasing him.
Freeman has started six games against the Panthers in his career, averaging 233 passing yards per game with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Five of those interceptions came as a rookie in 2009 in his first game against Carolina and just his fifth career start, but that is also the only time Freeman has topped 300 yards through the air against the Panthers (321 yards).
Freeman’s chances to start next Sunday largely rest on how quickly he grasps Minnesota’s offense, which may not be too hard a task with the decidedly unimaginative Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator. It can be assumed Freeman will arrive at the team facility on Monday, perhaps to be introduced to the local media as well, and he can get his hands on a playbook and be ready to take the practice field at some point during the week. Whether he starts on Sunday or not, it seems inevitable Freeman will play in the game unless Cassel (or I suppose Ponder) is playing incredibly well.
Freeman surely has physical tools and upside no other quarterback on the Vikings’ roster has, and I think the team may have their quarterback of the future since he is still just 25 years old and will not turn 26 until January. Of course that is under the assumption that Freeman’s issues in Tampa Bay are unique to that situation, and remain behind him as he moves forward in his career.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.