According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have benched starting QB Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon following a terrible 0-3 start and poor QB play. Based on reading tweets during Sunday’s game against New England it seemed as if the Buccaneers were prepared to make the switch in the second half as multiple people reported Glennon warming up on the sidelines. Whether they thought better of it or wanted to give Freeman one more chance to save his job, most likely the decision was made at that point.
For Freeman this is a crushing blow. Freeman was set to enter free agency after this season and was hoping to get a big money contract. Barring a trade this move will likely destroy his value in free agency. Freeman has been up and down his entire career since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft and the lasting memories will be the bad start before being benched in favor of a mid round draft pick after just three games.
Free agency has not really been very kind to players who failed to finish out a season as a starter and were subsequently signed to new deals. On one end of the spectrum were question mark players such as David Carr of the Texans and Mark Sanchez of the Jets who were able to parlay shaky starts of their careers into more job security. But the list of other names which includes first rounders such as Matt Leinart, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell is extensive and the contract propositions were not strong.
For example Leinart signed a 1 year contract with the Texans worth $1 million after being released by the Cardinals. Harrington would be traded to the Dolphins where he would sign an extension worth just $2.87 million per season. Grossman signed a one year contract with Chicago for $3 million while Leftwich received a two year $3 million per year deal from the Falcons. In contrast the Texans were willing to execute a buyback that would guarantee Carr an additional $8 million while the Jets guaranteed Sanchez over $19 million in his extension.
Freeman is going to need to get back on the field to increase his earning potential. He needs to have his name put back into the equation for teams considering a younger QB with some upside in his game. This is likely only going to happen via trade. Freeman should be able to find a team willing to take a chance on him as the relationship between he and Coach Greg Schiano was poor and Freeman’s coaching in general has been somewhat haphazard. Teams can at least look at this as a reasonable reclamation project.
Tampa Bay probably damaged what little trade value he had by benching him, but there has always been a premium paid for QB’s so it should not be far fetched to imagine a mid round pick being used to acquire him. Teams will not be scared off by his free agent status because they still have the franchise tag at their disposal plus they can always sign him to an extension if he plays well. The cost of such a trade will probably be determined by what the Bucs feel they could earn in a compensatory pick if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in 2014. Tampa most likely will not be as active in free agency due to their salary cap in 2014 so a compensatory pick is a realistic option. If they feel they will get a 5th rounder a team inquiring to trade for him will need to part with that pick.
Freemans cost at the moment in terms of cash and cap for a trade partner is $6.94 million. Nine teams could currently afford to absorb that number on their books. Of those nine the only one that would be interested would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another option, however, would be for the Buccanners to prepay some of Freeman’s salary to facilitate a trade. This would be reasonable if the situation in Tampa is so toxic that they have to move him. By eating $5 million of his remaining money it could bring life to a trade with a team like the Minnesota Vikings.
For Tampa Bay this may be as much about salvaging this season as it is the future of the team. Getting a look at Glennon now gives Tampa insight into how the team responds to him. How he prepares dueing the week. How he accepts the responsibility of a starting job. I believe there is much more that can be evaluated with a rookie actually starting outside of just the on the field results, which many times are poor. If he fails to meet their internal expectations it gives Tampa the information that they would not have had by letting him ride the bench which could lead to different personnel decisions in 2014. Tampa could look to acquire a player in free agency or a high pick in the draft so knowing what they have is important. For example had the Raiders been able to get a look a Terrelle Pryor they probably never would have executed the trade for Matt Flynn. Tampa most likely wants to avoid those scenarios.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.