Three weeks from tomorrow (holy crap, it's almost here!), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers open up training camp. With training camp comes the pre-season, and shortly thereafter, the regular season. But during training camp, we all know there are multiple story lines going on; Heck, we've beaten them to death over the last few weeks. Who will make the roster? Will there be changes in starters at certain positions?
But there is one question that, while we all want to know the answer, there's still a large piece of the puzzle left before the coaching staff can even begin to decide that.
That one question is this. Who will be our starting quarterback?
Alright, hold on, before everyone jumps up and say "Duh you idiot, we've heard this talked about and re-hashed 39248029 times" let me point this out. Freeman hasn't signed yet, nor have there been any (public) acknowledgements of contract talks. We still have three weeks to go, so odds are the talks get going in the next 20 days, but until Freeman inks his name on a contract, he isn't a factor in the QB battle.
Don't believe me? There are some recent examples we can use.
Ask Brady Quinn how holding out and not signing worked for him. Or go ask Joe Flacco what it did for his career by getting into camp on time. Same for Matt Ryan. As a rookie, particularly a rookie QB, one missed day can drop you significantly behind the other players. You haven't been through a training camp before, the other guys have. You don't know the offense, can't see it in live action until you hit the field and you can't hit the field until you sign. You have the better part of four weeks and part of four pre-season games to show you deserve the job.
If I'm Freeman (or his agent), I make sure I'm in camp on time. If you don't start year 1, there is no guarantee when that chance comes. Quinn, in his 3rd year, still hasn't locked down the job, and with a contract based heavily on incentives, it's safe to say he and his agent screwed up. Getting into camp on time doesn't guarantee success, but it doesn't limit it either.
On the flipside, if I'm Dominik or Raheem and I really mean what I say about not wanting Freeman to start in year 1, a holdout, or delayed contract talks or exactly what I want. Hey, if he isn't in camp, we can't evaluate, the other guys get a leg up, Freeman sits, we protect our "franchise" QB by bringing him along slowly and the fans can blame Freeman and company for dragging their feet rather than blame us (Dom and Morris) for sitting him. Everyone wins, right?
My personal opinion is I don't want Freeman starting year 1. I think it's beneficial for young QB's to sit and learn, to adjust and adapt in the beginning. But I want him in camp, utilizing every opportunity to learn. I don't want a Jamarcus Russell on our hands, I want a Carson Palmer, minus the elbow injury.
First rounders don't typically sign until they know the ceiling and floor based on 2008 picks and what the pick before and after them received. It becomes a long, drawn out process, but history has typically shown that by getting into camp on time, it only helps you and the team.
This will be a story to keep an eye on as this will shape the QB race. From OTA's, the general opinion was McCown led the race but that no one separated themselves from the crowd. So while we want to know who our starting QB is, there are some other things to find out. How quickly does (and will) Freeman get in camp? Will he be prepared to jump right in the battle? Is he more concerned with dollars than he is on winning over his teammates?
The watch has been ticking Mr. Freeman, this contract situation will be a first impression for most fans, are you going to come off as spoiled and selfish by holding out or as hard-working, dedicated and willing to work by getting into camp on time? Here at Buc 'Em, we'll keep an eye on contract talks and what they mean for Josh Freeman and the team.
You have 22 days Josh, hope to see you in camp.