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Shrouded By Controversy, Bucs Release Freeman


Sailing away: Josh Freeman was willingly released by Tampa Bay on Thursday.

After an unsettling and controversial start to the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released quarterback Josh Freeman.

The team made the announcement Thursday after failing to find a potential suitor for the fifth-year quarterback, who has started 59 games for the Buccaneers.

General manager Mark Dominik is reported to have called all 31 other NFL teams looking to make a deal, but the response was unanimous: no team was willing to part with any player or pick for Freeman.

In a statement, Dominik said: “We appreciate [Freeman’s] efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this [release] was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers.”

Freeman will now collect the remainder of his $6.5 million deal for 2013 and is eligible to sign with any other team.

The release closes out one of the most unsettled periods in Buccaneers franchise history, which includes a 0-4 start to the season.

News reports of a rift between Freeman and head coach Greg Schiano emerged three weeks ago, following a series of incidents. Freeman was not selected as team captain for the first time in three seasons at the start of the season which some suggested was down to vote-rigging by Schiano. The coach denied such rumors. Freeman was reported to have also missed the team photo after oversleeping, was late for a bus ride, and conducted an unauthorized interview with ESPN.

While these stories surfaced, the drafting of another quarterback, Mike Glennon, suggested that Freeman’s time as a starter – as well as his time in Tampa – might be limited.

Schiano essentially confirmed these promptings by benching the 0-3 Freeman ahead of last Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, installing Glennon as the starting quarterback. The Bucs again lost, 13-10, but it would be the behind-the-scenes activity that would make the headlines.

On Monday, reports emerged that Freeman was enrolled in Stage 1 of the league’s substance-abuse program. Schiano was accused of leaking this confidential information, a claim he adamantly denied.

The leaked health status turned out to the straw that broke the Buccaneers’ back. With Freeman vocal about wanting a trade, not to mention distrusting the organization, and the 0-4 Buccaneers in dire need of some stability, Dominik acquiesced, not before trying to find a suitor though.

The Tampa Bay Times has compiled a concise timeline of the entire miserable affair

Freeman, who had a breakout year in 2010, throwing 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions as Tampa Bay went 10-6, now finds himself a free agent.

Will he follow in the footsteps of the likes of Trent Dilfer, Doug Williams and Steve Young, all of whom went on to win a Super Bowl after exiting Tampa, or will he drift into obscurity as just another college prospect that couldn’t cut it in the big time?

By the time you’ve read this, somebody somewhere will have made a serious link between Freeman and the offensively inept Jacksonville Jaguars. Of course, the 0-4 Jags are always in the conversation when it comes to quarterbacks arriving in town, but the same could be said right now for the Oakland Raiders and Arizona.

Freeman could also be a temporary fit for the Cleveland Browns, who saw Brian Hoyer leave Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills with an injury. If Hoyer has suffered a serious injury and if the team really doesn’t trust Brandon Weedon, Freeman might be a nice pickup. Or maybe Freeman will find his way to Nashville and the Tennessee Titans, who are without Jake Locker right now and looking down the barrel of Ryan Fitzpatrick start.

With 13 weeks of the regular season left to play, injuries could very much prove to be Freeman’s friend. Alternatively, a trip to the CFL or even Russia (see Tim Tebow) could be on the agenda. Or, dare we say, a backup role elsewhere in the NFL. Of course, all of this is simply speculation, although we’d bet that Freeman ends up somewhere sooner rather than later.

As for the Buccaneers, the team takes a bye this weekend before trying to somehow generate some kind of momentum after a 0-4 start. On the plus side, the team has been beaten by three points or less in three of those four losses. The down side: with the inexperienced Glennon at the helm, an already tough schedule just got even tougher.

Tampa Bay will host the Philadelphia Eagles on October 13 (1:00 p.m. ET).

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