After several years of inconsistency and a rough beginning to 2013, Josh Freeman is officially out as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback. Weeks of rumored clashes with head coach Greg Schiano and an 0-3 start finally tipped the scales for Freeman, who was benched on Wednesday in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. So with his days as a starting quarterback in Tampa Bay likely over, what's next for Freeman?
Reports that the quarterback could ask the team to trade him have been floating around for over a week, and although he has denied the rumor, it seems a trade could now be imminent whether he requests it or not. With Freeman's rookie contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Buccaneers may try to get a return on his departure before he hits free agency.
The issue that the Bucs now face is finding a trade partner willing and able to deal for Freeman. Most importantly, they will have to find someone that can afford the $6.942 million remaining on his original $8.43 million contract. According to Brian McIntyre, only nine teams in the NFL currently have the necessary $6.9 million in cap space to take on Freeman: Buffalo, Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Miami, Philadelphia and Tennessee.
The next step would be finding someone that 1) needs a quarterback and 2) would be willing to give up the pieces needed to acquire one. We can go ahead and throw out the Bengals, Eagles, Packers and Panthers, as they already have established signal callers. With youngsters Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill and E.J. Manuel off to solid starts in Tennessee, Miami and Buffalo, respectively, it seems unlikely that those teams would have interest, either.
That leaves the Browns and Jaguars as the most likely trade partners. Jacksonville is certainly looking for an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, but whether they would be willing to give up draft picks to acquire Freeman is questionable. Sitting at 0-3 and showing little hope for improvement, they may elect to fold their cards on 2013 and cash in on a top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Browns are in better position to compete, and could benefit immediately from the acquisition of a new quarterback. They seem to have moved on from Brandon Weeden, and clearly don't trust backup Jason Campbell. However, they may want more time to evaluate third-stringer-turned-starter Brian Hoyer, who tossed three touchdowns and led a game-winning drive against Minnesota last Sunday. More significantly, the team just dealt star running back Trent Richardson away for a first-round selection in 2014, a sign that they likely plan on picking up a franchise quarterback through next year's draft.
The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 29. That gives any potential trade partners time to consider the team's needs and the mechanics of making a deal for Freeman.