Examining the Potential Landing Spots for Josh Freeman

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With Josh Freeman’s benching official we now turn some attention  to possible landing spots for the QB. Right off the bat I do feel that the Buccaneers really mishandled the situation.  If they were this down on Freeman to bench him this quickly they should have explored the trade market months ago when he still had value. Giving up on him kills his trade value to the point where you are now just hoping to dump a player that was drafted in the first round in 2009.

I do think a possible scenario could be one in which the Bucs sit and wait until the trade deadline hoping that a starter gets injured and makes picking up Freeman a necessity. That would be the maximized return in terms of trade value. But this is not going to be Carson Palmer to the Raiders. Palmer had retired from football and not had an opportunity to QB a team expected to do well and then been the primary person blamed for failure. They will give up something, but it’s going to be more like a 5th or 6th round pick, not a 2nd rounder.

From a draft pick for player trade perspective I think all sides will look at the possibility of compensatory draft picks. Right now Freeman is damaged goods but players like Vince Young and Jason Campbell were able to fetch close to $4 million a year while Kyle Boller even made $1.5 million, so it’s possible that compensatory picks could be awarded if he hits free agency. If the Buccaneers think they will receive a compensatory 5th in the 2015 draft they  should be willing to take a 5th in 2014 for him. A 6th could even get it done. Those same teams might look at this as a one season delay on the draft pick since they would then hold Freeman’s free agent rights and receive that compensatory pick in the 2015 draft.

Thus far I don’t think there are any rumors of serious interest anywhere, but why not look ahead anyway and focus on the five teamsthat most  fans are talking about.

Minnesota Vikings

I don’t really see this as being an ideal trade partner. While Christian Ponder is not lighting the world on fire in Minnesota he is not the biggest issue on a team that gives up 30 points to the Browns and cant place a body on a receiver on a fake FG attempt. The Vikings are 0-3 and what reason would there be to believe that Freeman, who flopped on a playoff potential team, would come in here and rescue the season?

The other issue here is the cap space issue. Josh Freeman will cost $6.94 million in cap space to a team that acquires him. The Vikings have just $2.3 million. I would imagine if you are trading for Freeman the need for either Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder disappears. The Vikings could include Cassel in a trade and cut about $1.4 million from the payroll, but that still would not be enough to make the trade happen. Ponder would free even less room but the Vikings would also pass along $1.7 million in fully guaranteed 2014 salary to the Bucs, making him perhaps a more reasonable candidate.

I would think to make it work they would move Ponder for Freeman and have to make the salaries match. Trading Ponder transfers $2,829,645 in guaranteed salary to the Buccaneers. In turn the Buccaneers would need to pay $4,112,708 of Freeman’s salary before executing a trade. That would bring the cash and cap commitment for the Vikings to $2.829 million, giving them just enough room to execute a Ponder for Freeman trade. I actually think the Vikings would want something beyond Freeman to do that trade, but Ponder has also become a scapegoat so maybe not.

The Vikings do have a number of high cost players who could also have their contracts reworked to open up the cap space necessary to make the trade if they did not want to part with any players on the team. The Vikings have a low payroll in 2014 so franchising Freeman is a realistic option.

Oakland Raiders

If this was April I think the Raiders would have been interested. Greg Olson, the Raiders Offensive Coordinator, has a relationship with Freeman when the two were together in Tampa and he got the best out of Freeman. But Oakland already whiffed once in the trade market and now have seen Terrelle Pryor at least be capable enough to warrant more opportunity. Pryor did suffer a concussion this past Monday and those injuries can be very tricky. If the Raiders think it could be a long term setback for Pryor this could be a reasonable option.

Like with the Vikings, the trade is complicated because of salary cap constraints as the Raiders only have $3.1 million in room. It is probably further complicated because the Raiders are not going to spend more draft picks on the position as they have wasted picks in trades for Palmer and Flynn in recent years. I would think this would need to be a pure player for player trade with Flynn going to Tampa and Freeman to Oakland. Flynn only makes $1.25 million so again we have a scenario where the Buccaneers are going to need to eat significant salary, somewhere between $2.8 and $3.8 million to make the numbers work.

Oakland does not have the financial flexibility to rework contracts to make the deal work without Tampa kicking in significant money. I guess an outside the box thought would be trading Darren McFadden and his salary to the Buccaneers, but that seems counterproductive for both sides.  If Tampa does not foot the bill Oakland would, most likely, have to sign Freeman to an extension. Since Freeman’s value right now is so low Oakland could be willing to do that if Freeman was willing to sign off on it. Oakland’s payroll is next to nothing in 2014 so adding money to that year, even via a void provision, would not impact them one bit.

Jacksonville Jaguars

In my mind this makes sense simply because the Jaguars are so bad and have the worst QB situation in the NFL. But the Jaguars have not really made any changes to their team and seem to be simply playing for the draft at this point, making this a move they will not want to make. Unlike the first two teams Freeman would be a clear upgrade to both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, but that could potentially compromise their ability to cruise to the first pick in the draft. There is no reason for the Jaguars to think that Freeman is a franchise QB and they are simply treading water until they get the opportunities to build the team in a manner they feel champions are built.

The Jaguars have more than enough cap room to take Freeman on but unless they just want to throw a bone to their fanbase there is no reason for them to make this trade. It would be a surprise if they made this move.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland already moved on from Brandon Weeden in favor of Brian Hoyer, so I guess the question here is how high are the Browns on Hoyer, who played well last Sunday, and how low are they on Weeden. The Browns owe Weeden $2.44 million in fully guaranteed salary in 2014 and 2015 and a trade involving Weeden lets them pass those obligations on to another team, which is what they did with Trent Richardson. Would they consider that a fair swap?  I’m not sure as  they may prefer getting a late draft pick for Weeden than a player like Freeman. The Browns have plenty of cap space this year and next so applying the tag or extending Freeman would work without problem.

I would keep an eye on the Browns closer to the trade deadline if Freeman is still riding the bench in Tampa Bay. The Browns division does not look  to be strong this year and the Browns do have a solid defense that will keep them in games. If Hoyer proves to be a one game wonder but the Browns tread water and sit at 3-4 with a solid defense Freeman could be worth a gamble. At the worst it is throwing away a player you have already given up on for someone who could be more than just a stopgap for the season.

Tennessee Titans

I have seen the Titans name mentioned before, and they have just enough cap room to pull this trade off, but I’m not really sure there is a fit. I feel as if the Titans would like to continue to give Jake Locker a look and if he was to fail would be prepared to turn the reigns over to Ryan Fitzpatrick in hopes of being able to make the playoffs.  Going forward the Titans have enough salary cap commitments to where having cap rollover dollars are more important than bringing Freeman onto the roster. Those same cap commitments likely eliminate the Franchise tag and any extensions before free agency. I only see this as a destination if both Locker and Fitzpatrick were to get injured.

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Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc