Giants cut QB Josh Freeman – Will He make a 2014 NFL Roster?

josh-freeman-new-york-giantsNine months ago, Josh Freeman was going into the NFL regular season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fifth-year starter. However, things fell apart after he slept through a team photo, lost his captaincy, was replaced by rookie Mike Glennon as a starter, and had his involvement in the NFL’s drug program leaked by then-head coach Greg Schiano’s staff.

He did get a second chance last season, though, with the Minnesota Vikings. Coach Leslie Frazier made the curious decision to start Freeman early, resulting in a disastrous 20-for-53 throwing performance. That was the last Freeman would see the field in Minnesota, despite being paid a healthy $3 million for a half-season’s work.

A Second…Third Chance

josh-freeman-new-york-giants-2For some quarterbacks, this might have been a death knell to their career. But then again, Freeman still has plenty of talent as he’s blessed with size (6’6″, 240 pounds), an excellent arm, good mobility and a high Wonderlic test score. Plus, he has a wealth of stats behind his five-year career, including 13,724 passing yards, 80 TD passes and 67 interceptions. So it was little surprise when the New York Giants gave Freeman a second chance by signing him.

Starting quarterback Eli Manning and his backup, Curtis Painter, both underwent offseason surgery, so Freeman was signed on April 21st as insurance. However, Manning returned to practice this week and Painter is likely to return before training camp begins. This, coupled with second-year QB Ryan Nassib’s emergence, was making the signal-caller position tight in New York.

So the Giants chose to release Freeman today, putting his NFL future in jeopardy. And who did they replace him with? Roger Gaines, an undrafted, free agent offensive lineman who spent all of last season on the Chicago Bears practice squad. Not exactly the type of “talent” that you’d expect to replace a former first-round pick like Freeman.

Same Ole’ Problems

josh-freeman-new-york-giants-1When Freeman went to Minnesota last year, there was plenty of grumbling surrounding him. For starters, he was said to be one of the last guys into the team facilities and late to team meetings every day. This being the case, it’s little wonder why an unnamed Vikings player said, “You could tell Josh did not know the offense.”

Fast-forward to this spring and it appears that Freeman was having the same type of troubles in New York. One particular play was telling as Freeman lined up the offense incorrectly and was quickly pulled off the field in favor of Painter. We haven’t heard any rumors that the former Kansas State star was late to meetings and practices. However, it’s clear that he is still having a rough time picking up the offense.

New York was the only team willing to take a chance on Freeman this offseason. Given that he couldn’t even beat out Painter, Nassib or a practice-squad lineman who’s never played an NFL snap, the future of Freeman’s football career is quite murky. He could get another shot in the middle of the 2014 NFL season, when injuries start piling up and teams get desperate to fill holes.

But for now, it’s hard to see another team wasting time and roster space on Freeman since, judging from his Minnesota and New York stints, he obviously needs a lot of time to learn new offenses.

Free Agents who could Really Impact 2014 NFL Futures Bets

michael-vickIf you’re into making NFL futures bets, some experts suggest that you do it as early in the offseason as possible to get good value before lines shift. However, if you’re somebody who likes to wait and see how free agency impacts teams’ odds of winning the Super Bowl, this is never a bad decision either. Keeping in mind that some players have already been re-signed or franchise tagged, let’s look at some game-changing free agents who are still on the market this year and where they might go (based on rumors and/or teams actively seeking position upgrades).

Quarterbacks

1. Michael Vick (possible destinations: NY Jets, San Francisco) – After Vick played in just seven games last year due to injuries/losing his job to Nick Foles, we have to wonder if the 33-year-old’s best years are behind him. Still, Vick is a name that stands out in a subpar crop of free agent quarterbacks, and there are plenty of teams that would love to see if he’s got one or two good years left.

2.  Josh McCown (possible destinations: Chicago, Detroit) – Although it seems like McCown came out of nowhere last year with his 13 TD’s and one interception, he’s actually been in the league since 2002. At 34, he’s even older than Vick, but McCown should still find a few suitors who need a solid backup.

3. Josh Freeman (possible destinations: Oakland, NY Jets) – Between the fiasco in Tampa Bay and his stop in Minnesota, last year was Freeman’s worst as a profession. But before this, he was a four-year starter who was having a pretty decent career. Given the fact that Freeman is only 26, somebody will sign him as a backup to compete for the starting role.

Running Backs

ben-tate-free-agent1. Ben Tate (possible destinations: Cleveland, NY Giants) – Injuries and a timeshare with Arian Foster have always held Tate back from emerging as a star. But we fully expect him to get a big deal somewhere since he’s only 25 and runs a 4.43 forty. Tate could definitely go over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

2. Knowshon Moreno (possible destinations: NY Giants, Tennessee) – The former first round pick had his best year as a pro with 1,038 rushing yards, 548 receiving yards and 13 total TD’s. At 26 years old, he could be a long-term option for many teams. But can he produce the same numbers without Peyton Manning taking the pressure off?

3. Maurice Jones-Drew (possible destinations: NY Jets, Houston) – It took Jones-Drew a while to get going last year, but he did come up with 803 yards and 5 touchdowns on a bad team. Unfortunately, his career is at a decline, but he could still provide some nice power running in a committee.

Wide Receivers

1. Eric Decker (possible destinations: Indianapolis, San Francisco) – With 2,342 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons, Decker has more than enough on his resume to land a big deal. Much like Moreno, the question now becomes if he’ll be able to live up to a big deal without Manning.

julian-edelman-free-agent2. Julian Edelman (possible destinations: Baltimore, Cleveland) – Last year couldn’t have gone any better for Edelman, who stepped in amidst New England’s receiver injuries and produced with 105 catches, 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Now heading into free agency, he’s looking at millions of dollars.

3. James Jones (possible destinations: Minnesota, Seattle) – Often playing in a crowded Packers receiving corp, Jones still managed to produce 1,601 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two years. It’s especially impressive that he posted his highest career yardage total last season, despite Aaron Rodgers’ lengthy injury layoff.

Tight Ends

Garrett Graham (possible destinations: Houston, NY Giants) – Despite all of the quarterback turmoil in Houston, Graham still managed to post 545 yards and five touchdowns on 49 catches – and he only played in 13 games. He heads up an unimpressive crop of unsigned free agent tight ends this offseason.

Defensive Linemen

michael-johnson-cincinnati1. Michael Johnson (possible destinations: Atlanta, Tampa Bay) – After tallying 11.5 sacks in 2012, Johnson had a down season last year when he managed only 3.5 sacks. But at 6’7″ and just 27 years old, Johnson figures to draw tons of attention from teams wanting a tough defensive end – especially now that Greg Hardy is franchise tagged and Michael Bennett re-signed with Seattle.

2. Jason Hatcher (possible destinations: Atlanta, Dallas) – He’s 31 right now, but most teams will be concentrating on the 11 sacks he had last season. Hatcher definitely picked the perfect time to have a career year for an otherwise dismal Cowboys defense.

3. Henry Melton (possible destinations: Dallas, Jacksonville) – Melton tore his ACL and only appeared in three games for the Bears. But with just four seasons under his belt, Melton should make a comeback and remain a strong defensive tackle for whichever team signs him.

Linebackers

karlos-dansby-interception1. Karlos Dansby (possible destinations: Cleveland, Tennessee) – The 32-year-old Dansby won’t fetch any long-term deals. But he’s a huge reason why the Cardinals contended for a playoff spot in the brutal NFC West. Don’t expect him to score two touchdowns again or even pick off four passes. But do expect him to give the next team that signs him another 100-plus tackles.

2. Brandon Spikes (possible destinations: Buffalo, Cleveland) – After four years in New England, Spikes will probably be taking his run-stopping talents elsewhere. He’s racked up 178 combined tackles over the last two years and is still just 26.

3. Shaun Phillips (possible destinations: Green Bay, Tennessee) – 11 seasons in the league and Phillips is still producing. Last year he gave Denver’s defense a much-needed boost by tallying 10 sacks. He’ll likely go to a Super Bowl contender who’s looking to fill a pass-rushing hole.

Defensive Backs/Safeties

1. Aqib Talib (possible destinations: New England, Washington) – Following this offseason, Talib should send the Seahawks a thank you letter for making big cornerbacks so sought after. If the Patriots don’t tag him, the 6’1″, 205-pound corner is likely looking at an 8-figure deal.

tj-ward-free-agent2. T.J. Ward (possible destinations: Denver, Detroit) – Although he’s not the best coverage safety, Ward is a hard-hitter who’s great at finishing tackles. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Browns, Ward will definitely be highly valued somewhere else.

3. Jairus Byrd (possible destinations: Cleveland, Miami) – Byrd missed the beginning of the season with a foot injury and contract holdout. But in the 11 games that he played, the 27-year-old had a productive year with 48 tackles and four interceptions. Buffalo doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to re-sign Byrd, so expect this elite-coverage safety to test the waters.

2013 Black Monday: 5 NFL Coaches fired

jim-schwartz-lionsEvery year, the Monday following Week 17 of the NFL regular season is a testy time for losing coaches. This year’s Black Monday was especially brutal as five coaches got the ax. Here’s a look at the unlucky coaches who were fired, along with a few that are still awaiting word on their futures.

Firings

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns – The Browns didn’t give Chudzinski much time to turn things around in Cleveland. They fired their rookie head coach immediately after his first season ended with a 4-12 record. What was particularly disheartening is that the Browns lost 10 out of their last 11 games. Cleveland ownership voiced disappointment over a “lack of accountability and effort” from Chud’s players. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ name has come up in the rumors involving the coaching search.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings – The writing has been on the wall for Frazier for quite some time after the team’s slow start and a disastrous quarterback carousel. Minnesota ownership was hoping that the Vikings would take another step forward after making the playoffs last year; instead, they finished just 5-10-1. Team officials have been working on potential replacements for weeks, and they’ve asked about Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

greg-schiano-hot-seatGreg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tampa Bay is a team that was built to win this season. Instead, they suffered through a 4-12 season under second-year coach Greg Schiano. Management was concerned that players were no longer responding to Schiano’s hard-driving style, and the Josh Freeman quarterback controversy didn’t help matters. General manager Mark Dominik was also a casualty on Black Monday.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions – No team collapsed as badly as the Lions did down the stretch. After climbing to the top of the NFC North with a 6-3 record, they lost 6 out of their last 7 contests and missed the postseason. Management had already made the decision on Schwartz’s job when the team was eliminated from postseason contention last week.

mike-shanahan-hot-seatMike Shanahan, Washington Redskins – The drama regarding Mike Shanahan has finally come to an end with his Monday morning firing. He was fired after a 3-13 record, which was the second worst in the league. It was no secret that Shanahan clashed with management over what he perceived as their babying of quarterback Robert Griffin III. The matter came to a conclusion when RG III was benched for the final three games to “prevent any injuries.”

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans – Kubiak wasn’t a Black Monday firing, but rather axed on December 12th after the team had lost 11 straight games. Team management also didn’t like the way that Kubiak handled the quarterback situation between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. Add in the fact that many expected Houston to contend for a Super Bowl and it’s pretty clear why Kubiak was fired. Several candidates have already been interviewed, including former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and Texans interim coach Wade Phillips.

Still Uncertain

dennis-allen-oaklandDennis Allen, Oakland Raiders – Before Oakland played the Denver Broncos, it was generally thought that both coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie would be safe. However, there are no guarantees following a 4-12 season, which ended with an embarrassing 34-14 loss to Denver, where the Broncos were leading 31-0 at halftime.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys – For the second year in a row, Garrett’s team lost the NFC East on the final game of the season. Owner Jerry Jones appears likely to keep Garrett, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s job could be in serious jeopardy.

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins – Miami was in the driver’s seat of their playoff destiny, but finished with losses to two subpar teams (Buffalo, NY Jets) to close out the season. Owner Stephen Ross didn’t exactly give any vote of confidence after saying that he has “a lot to think about” with regard to Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland’s jobs.

mike-munchak-tennesseeMike Munchak, Tennessee Titans – It was another up-and-down season for the Titans, with them finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs. And the hard-running, clock-management style that Tennessee is trying to push faltered in the middle of the season. Star running back Chris Johnson won’t be back. Is the same true of Munchack?

Job Security

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – Two years removed from a Super Bowl, nobody expected Tom Coughlin to be coaching for his job. However, a dismal 0-6 start got the press talking about Coughlin’s future with the organization. But early word is that, following a 7-3 finish to the season, it’s up to Coughlin to decide if he wants to stay with the team.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Many believe that Ryan did a commendable job with the Jets since this season was projected to be a rebuilding effort. However, Ryan coached them to a .500 record and ended the year on a positive note with two straight wins.

NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2013: Gary Kubiak, Greg Schiano and More

greg-schiano-hot-seatAs is the case every year, certain NFL teams disappoint their owners and fans, which always puts the head coaches on the hot seat. In 2013, some of the more disappointing teams have been the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.

Of course, there are other teams that weren’t expected to do well this season, yet still need a good year to save their coach’s job. The New York Jets and Oakland Raiders fall into this category because fans and ownership are growing impatient with the lack of recent postseason bids. Now let’s take a look at how each of these team’s coaches are doing in their bid to stay employed.

Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay, 3-8) – Hot Seat Temperature: Very High – It was all but a forgone conclusion that Greg Schaino was going to be fired after the Josh Freeman mess and, more importantly, an 0-8 start. However, the Bucs have provided a glimmer of hope after winning three straight games. Make no mistake about it, Schiano is still in big danger of being fired. But if he can inspire his team over the remainder of the NFL season, maybe he stands a chance of being saved.

Gary Kubiak (Houston, 2-9) – Hot Seat Temperature: High – By most admissions, Gary Kubiak is a pretty good coach, which is why he’s been in Houston for eight seasons. But his team was built to win a title this year, and now they’re arguably the NFL’s worst. Of course, this isn’t all Kubiak’s fault since injuries and other problems have plagued his team. Unfortunately, few people are showing him sympathy, even after his mini-stroke a few weeks ago. His handling of the Case Keenum/Matt Schaub quarterback situation hasn’t helped matters.

leslie-frazier-hot-seatLeslie Frazier (Minnesota, 2-8-1) – Hot Seat Temperature: High – Most people realize that the Vikings overachieved when they made the playoffs last year, thanks to an absolutely torrid second half by Adrian Peterson. Even still, everybody expected them to at least be competitive heading into 2013. Much like Kubiak, Frazier has dealt with a quarterback debacle, having started Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Freeman at various points of the season.

Dennis Allen (Oakland, 4-7) – Hot Seat Temperature: High – An Oakland coach on the hot seat…imagine that. Allen has an 8-20 record over his season and a half with the Raiders, which isn’t going to turn any heads. This team received a boost from Terrelle Pryor’s excellent play early on. However, a sprained knee hampered Pryor and put a damper on the Raiders’ season. They’re still not completely out of the AFC Wild Card race, though, meaning Allen will need some wins to show he definitely deserves this job.

mike-shanahan-hot-seatMike Shanahan (Washington, 3-8) – Hot Seat Temperature: Medium – Shanahan didn’t exactly inherit the most talent in 2010, but still, he molded this team into a postseason club three years later. Now, with Robert Griffin III on the roster, Shanahan is expected to keep winning, which hasn’t happened in 2013. Players like DeAngelo Hall have expressed a desire for Shanahan to return next season. But whether this happens or not is mainly up to Daniel Snyder, who seems to really love Griffin’s talent above anything else.

Rex Ryan (New York Jets, 5-6) – Hot Seat Temperature: Medium – If there’s one team that’s exceeded expectations on this list, it is definitely New York. This was merely supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Jets, where Geno Smith was introduced as the franchise quarterback. However, things have flip-flopped, with the 5-6 Jets tied for the sixth AFC Wild Card spot, and Smith looking like a third-stringer. If Smith doesn’t play better soon, or if Ryan doesn’t bench him soon, the latter could be looking for another job.

What Impact will Josh Freeman have on the Minnesota Vikings?

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikingsEver since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him last week, Josh Freeman had been a hot commodity among teams seeking a reliable quarterback. Maybe “reliable” isn’t the word here, given how tumultuous Freeman’s last days in Tampa Bay ended. But several desperate NFL clubs were willing to take a chance on him if it means salvaging their season.

The Minnesota Vikings proved to be the most attractive destination since Freeman signed with them today. The deal is a one-year, $3 million contract, with the 25-year-old reportedly wanting to only sign for one season instead of two. He picked Minnesota over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

The obvious thought that comes to mind here is how the Vikings quarterback situation will play out. Coming off of a rib injury, Christian Ponder is the incumbent starter and the supposed QB of the future. But since being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Florida State product has never been truly impressive. 2013 has been especially bad since he’s thrown for 691 yards, 2 TD’s, 5 INT”s, and fumbled twice in three starts.

Matt Cassel is the other option, and he led the Vikings to their first win of the year just before Minnesota’s bye week. He racked up 248 yards and 2 touchdowns after completing 16-of-25 passes. Most importantly, he didn’t have any turnovers, which is something that’s plagued Ponder.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayEnter Freeman, who compiled very good numbers with the Buccaneers in the first four years of his career. He had 12,090 yards, 76 TD’s, 54 INT’s and a 59.1 completion percentage. But as mentioned before, things fell apart since he missed important team functions and didn’t get along with second-year head coach Greg Schiano. One week after losing his starting job to rookie Mike Glennon, Freeman was cut loose by the Bucs.

Now in Minnesota, Freeman doesn’t figure to start right away. Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that either Ponder or Cassel will start against the Carolina Panthers. But the Vikings certainly aren’t paying Freeman $3 million for three-quarters of a season to be a bench warmer. He’s been brought in to compete for the starting job and take over if Ponder continues to falter.

Frazier even hinted at this by saying, “That’s part of the equation. That’s definitely on the table. We’ll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense.”

However, he also alluded to the fact that Ponder still has an opportunity to retain the job. “I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” he said. “It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional. He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back on the field and help our team win.”

As mentioned before, Ponder is/was supposed to be the future of this franchise. But with a talent like Adrian Peterson, Minnesota isn’t content to wait another year or two for him to catch on. The team is in a win-now mode since they arguably have the league’s most talented running back.

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikings-1Seeing as how Peterson is 28 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of prime years left. So this essentially becomes a question of whether or not the Vikings are willing to risk Peterson’s golden years on a chance that Ponder might turn things around. With Freeman now in town, odds are that Minnesota is, instead, betting on the guy who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.

So now we come to the question of what Freeman can do for the Vikings. With a 1-3 record, this team is already in the hole. And things won’t get any easier since they’re in an extremely tough division which includes Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

But Freeman at least provides a slightly better opportunity to win now than Ponder does. Sure the Vikings aren’t getting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees here; but they are getting a five-year veteran who has good arm strength and can put up decent numbers.

Now the big question will be if he can take advantage of having a threat like Peterson in the offense. Opponents constantly have to be aware of number 28 at all times. So this will take some of the pressure off Freeman, perhaps even more so than what Doug Martin did in Tampa Bay.

It’s still early enough in the year for Minnesota to make a turnaround. They are 1.5 games out of the NFC North lead and still have plenty of contests left against their division foes. But Freeman is going to have to play better than ever before to help the Vikings make a playoff run.

Things get Ugly in Tampa Bay with Leak of Josh Freeman’s Drug Program Involvement

josh-freeman-drug-programThe past few weeks have already been miserable for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. All throughout September, he was bashed for sleeping through a team photo and losing his captaincy through a team vote. On Sunday, he was officially benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. And now Tampa Bay has leaked information on Freeman’s involvement in the NFL’s drug program.

The latter is not only something that reflects negatively on the embattled quarterback, but also on head coach Greg Schiano and the Bucs organization in general. Freeman’s teammates weren’t even supposed to know about him being in the program – let alone the media. So now the NFL is investigating the matter because leaking sensitive information of this nature is a huge violation of league standards.

When news first surfaced about Freeman’s alleged drug problem, people began to connect the dots. A missed team photo, a loss of confidence in him by the coaching staff, losing his job to a rookie third-rounder…it all added up to a major problem. However, the truth is that Freeman voluntarily checked himself into the NFL’s drug program after accidentally taking Ritalin instead of Adderall to treat his ADHD.

The fifth-year quarterback’s actions are certainly not despicable by any means. But the violation of his privacy is, and it’s something that Freeman won’t take lightly. “Since the confidentiality of my medical status has been publicly violated,” he said, “I am choosing to address this matter so that grossly erroneous assumptions about me do not persist.”

At this point, there’s no word on who leaked the info to the press. But Freeman strongly suggested that it’s somebody within Tampa Bay as he said, “Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions, and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information.”

josh-freeman-tampa-bayLeaking Josh Freeman’s involvement in a drug program is just the latest disaster for the Buccaneers. They’ve opened the year with zero wins through their first four games and have looked very undisciplined under Schiano. Many people have already been calling for the head coach to be fired, and now it’s highly likely that somebody from his staff smeared Freeman.

Schiano denied having any knowledge of who’s been talking to the press. But it certainly doesn’t reflect well upon him since he was never a supporter of Freeman to begin with. Now Tampa Bay’s front office has even more ammunition to fire him, beyond a winless start to this season.

Moving past Schiano, Freeman and the Bucs, this situation is bad for the entire league. The NFL has been working hard to ensure that players feel comfortable approaching team officials about personal and substance abuse problems. With the disaster that Freeman has experienced in Tampa Bay, players may think twice about discussing these matters with coaches.

This is especially true if somebody has a more severe problem than mistakenly taking Ritalin. If a player struggles with an alcohol or cocaine addiction, they’d be very wary about the press finding out.

Taking all of this into account, you can bet that Rodger Goodell and league officials will take this situation very seriously. At the least, somebody is getting suspended when the NFL finds out what happened. And now Schiano has to worry even more about the status of his job.