Originally written April 06, 2013 on XLJournal:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is entering the final year of his current contract. That means there is a greater sense of urgency for Freeman to finally prove that he is capable of being a franchise quarterback in the NFL. This is always the case for any player entering the last year of his contract. Playing well means more money when the time comes to sign a new contract. In Freeman’s case, that is only the beginning of what is at stake for the now 5th year quarterback. The Buccaneers had a disappointing season last year, finishing 7-9 and out of playoff contention. In a league that values instant success above all, the 1st stage of Freeman’s career has been a let down. The only year in which he led the team to a winning record was 2010, when the Bucs finished 10-6. Freeman threw just 6 INTs that year, which is significant seeing that he has thrown 39 in the two years since. That said, Freeman’s 2012 was not bad by any means. He threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career, and threw more touchdowns, a career high 25, than interceptions, 17. The aspect of his game that he struggled with last season was his ability to complete passes. His completion percentage dropped from a career high 62.8% in 2011, to just 54.8% in 2012. The bigger issue in 2012 though, was the inability to win games. This cannot be totally blamed on Freeman. In fact, most of the blame probably lies with porous pass defense that frequently allowed big chunks of yardage threw the air. The team also could not hold leads at the end of games as a result. With the moves the team has made through free agency, and with the draft only a few weeks away, Tampa is expected to be much improved on that side of the ball in 2013. This makes the play of Freeman all the more important. If he progresses further in his development then the Bucs can expect to be players late in the season when playoffs are the goal. If he stumbles again, expect Tampa Bay to be looking for a new quarterback this time next year.   Follow me on Twitter: @BrigantiJoeXLJ
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