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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Is Josh Freeman the answer?

By Pat Yasinskas

Just about a month ago, Josh Freeman was making it look like he was the franchise quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never had before.

Freeman and the offense were putting up big numbers and the Bucs were very much in the playoff race. But all that has changed as the Bucs have lost four straight games. Freeman and the offense have gone quiet.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s 41-0 loss to New Orleans, fans suddenly are questioning if Freeman is the answer for the Bucs. That’s understandable. He threw four interceptions against the Saints and he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the two games before that.

Back when the Bucs were hot, I thought they needed to lock up Freeman with a lengthy contract extension. Now, I don’t think they need to rush into anything. They might be wise to wait and see how Freeman plays next season.

But, unlike a bunch of callers I heard on local radio Tuesday, I don’t think the Bucs need to unload Freeman immediately. I think the Bucs need to give Freeman some more time. Yes, he’s played poorly of late, but he did some very nice things earlier in the season.

Freeman is only 24 and in his third full season as a starter. He also is in his first year in this offensive scheme and he's been playing behind an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries. Maybe Freeman isn’t the long-term solution for the Bucs.

But it’s too soon to simply give up on him. Besides, where would the Bucs find a quarterback that instantly would be better than Freeman? If they draft a quarterback, it would take time for him to develop and they’d be passing on a more pressing need at cornerback. If they sign a free agent, they’d be taking on a guy that another team didn’t want.

Maybe Freeman is the answer and maybe he’s not. But it’s too early in his career to go making that decision.