A lot of people are going on the assumption that this is a make-or-break year for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.
I don’t disagree with that premise. Freeman is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and this year very well could determine if the Bucs re-sign him to a long-term deal or let him walk as a free agent.
But the Bucs hold a potential wild card in the Freeman situation. Check out this Insider piece in which Mike Sando looks at quarterbacks that are in line for new contracts. He has a thought-provoking quote from an unnamed salary-cap manager.
"The interesting one this year is Freeman because he is not that $20 million quarterback, but he hasn't reached the point where he is a $3-5 million guy, either,’’ the cap manager said. “He could be franchised at something like $16 million and then make $2 million the year after that if he fails."
The franchise tag adds another layer or two to the Freeman situation. Let’s say Freeman has a good, but not spectacular, season. The Bucs could remain on the fence and buy another year (albeit at a hefty price) before making a final decision. The franchise tag also could come into play if Freeman’s asking price is higher than the Bucs want to go.
There are plenty of options here for the Bucs.
Of course the option the team and Freeman would like best would be for the quarterback to go out and have a fantastic season. That would eliminate any lingering doubts about whether he’s the long-term answer. If that happens, the Bucs could give Freeman a big, new contract that would give them a franchise quarterback without using the franchise tag.