After four-plus up-and-down years as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback, Josh Freeman is on his way out of Tampa Bay. After trying and failing to trade him, the Bucs have released their former first round draft pick, according to Adam Schefter.
Rumors of an impending parting of the ways escalated quickly last week after head coach Greg Schiano announced that Freeman had been benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, a third-round selection in the 2013 draft.
Freeman is now free to sign with any other NFL team. The Buccaneers are on the hook for roughly $6.25 million, the remainder of the guaranteed money on his contract this year. This was the final year of his initial rookie deal, and that contract did not include offset language.
The decision to jettison Freeman was reportedly finalized in a Thursday morning meeting between Schiano, general manager Mark Dominik and the rest of the team's ownership, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network. Ed Werder reports that Dominik contacted every team in the league in an effort to trade the maligned signal caller.
The team released the following statement from Dominik Thursday afternoon:
"We made the decision today to release Josh Freeman. We appreciate his efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers."
The Bucs got off to an 0-3 start with Freeman at the helm this season, and he was finally benched after an embarrassing 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 3. In those three games, Freeman had two touchdowns to four turnovers and a completion percentage of just 45.7.
Tampa Bay lost 13-10 to the Cardinals last Sunday in Glennon's debut, allowing Arizona to rally past them with 13 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Glennon went 24-of-43 for 193 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Tampa Bay selected Freeman with the 17th overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, making him the third quarterback off the board behind Matthew Stafford (No. 1) and Mark Sanchez (No. 5).
After a middling rookie campaign, Freeman enjoyed a breakout year in 2010, throwing 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions. The following seasons were somewhat of a roller coaster ride, as he continued to show flashes of greatness amid high interception numbers -- he threw 39 picks between 2011 and '12. His 50 turnovers since the start of the 2011 season are the second most in that span, behind Sanchez.
Freeman posted career highs in passing yards (4,065) and touchdowns (27) last season, but the team finished just 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.