Josh Freeman signed with the Miami Dolphins last week. The man who once looked like the long-term savior of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was out of football for all of last year. The man who once looked like one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, but couldn't even hang on to an offseason roster spot on a minimum salary as a third quarterback in 2014. That man is now back in the NFL -- and Mike Freeman (no relation) penned a fascinating story on how he managed to get back to playing.
As Mike Freeman tells it, Freeman had plenty of options this offseason. He worked hard to get back into shape, to convince people he's a different guy, someone worth having on the roster. And several NFL executives apparently think the same thing.
This is fascinating precisely because it was never clear why Freeman and the Bucs broke up. Mark Dominik has repeatedly implied that Josh Freeman had some off-field behavioral issues that eventually led to his being cut. Mike Freeman now notes that the Bucs waged a campaign to get him out of the building.
Why was Freeman out of football? Several team executives I spoke with said there was a false campaign launched from within the Buccaneers organization, leading to a story from ESPN that Freeman was in Stage 1 of the NFL's drug program. The intent of the person leaking that information, these executives explained, was to portray Freeman as a troubled guy on drugs.
That seems a little over the top. I'm not sure how the Bucs would benefit from turning their quarterback against themselves, but it's certainly clear that the situation quickly became toxic and untenable after just a few games into the 2013 season. And if there was truly nothing wrong with Freeman's behavior, why did he not stick with either the Minnesota Vikings, or the New York Giants -- the latter during the offseason, on a minimum salary?
That said, Freeman's talent is still there. He's still the player who looked like one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in 2010, and still the same player who struggled with turnovers but still was very productive in 2012. He has the arm strength and physical stature to be an NFL starter. The question is just whether his mind's in the right place this time. That'll be interesting to watch.