Every time I hear general manager Mark Dominik defend why Tampa Bay hasn’t been a big player in free agency and talk about the importance of keeping key players for the long term, I can’t help but think that there is a simple way to translate what he’s saying.
“At some point, we’re going to come out and offer Josh Freeman a monstrous contract extension.’’
If that’s the case, Dominik’s not going to say it because some of the first unwritten rules in NFL front offices are to never tip your hand and never to negotiate publicly. But I’m wondering if he’s throwing out a big hint about the future of the franchise, which essentially is Freeman.
When I first started pondering the thought of extending Freeman now, I wondered if it was too early. He’s only heading into his third season and has had only one full season as a starter. I think Freeman already is a very good quarterback and easily can see him becoming a great one soon.
But do you really base a huge financial commitment on one full season?
At first, I leaned against that idea. I thought it simply was too soon. Let Freeman have another good season and then wrap him up for the long term. But I’m swinging the other way on this one now.
First off, I just looked at Freeman’s contract information. After this season, he’s only got two more years left on his rookie deal. Yeah, that may seem like a long time, but the Bucs already have built their team so much around Freeman that it would be a huge mistake to ever let this guy get close to free agency.
I also ran the scenario by a high-ranking personnel official with a team other than the Bucs recently. I simply asked him if the Bucs should try to lock up Freeman now. His answer was an emphatic “absolutely." If he were in Dominik’s shoes, he’d take last season as concrete evidence that Freeman is for real and pay him whatever it takes to guarantee he’ll be around for a long time.
I’m now thinking that’s the logical approach. If you’re going to talk about how you’re going to keep your young core together for the long haul, you go out and start it with the guy who is your franchise.
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.