MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Josh Freeman has a new team, Minnesota has a new young quarterback and Tampa Bay has moved on.
This was quite the eventful bye week for the Vikings and Buccaneers.
Freeman’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, revealed the move in an exclamatory one-word tweet about his client Sunday night: “Vikings!!!” Burkhardt then confirmed to The Associated Press in a phone interview that the 25-year-old agreed to a deal worth $3 million for the rest of the season.
Giving Freeman that much money for only 12 games signals a big step away from Christian Ponder in Minnesota. Freeman was released by the Buccaneers on Thursday, a week after he was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
Ponder, the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2011, struggled in the first three games of the season, all losses. He threw five interceptions and lost two fumbles and didn’t get much help from an offensive line that couldn’t keep the pressure off of him, or open holes for star running back Adrian Peterson.
Matt Cassel took over in the last game while Ponder rested his injured ribs, and he gave the struggling unit a jolt. Cassel brought some much-needed rhythm and timing to the offense while throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 win over Pittsburgh in London.
But with Peterson still in his prime and an upgraded group of receivers with veteran Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings need to settle this critical position that has been in flux since Brett Favre faded in 2010 and retired for good after that season. Cassel is 31, and he’s coming off consecutive rough years with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Vikings didn’t comment on the move. They were scheduled to reconvene for practice on Monday morning.
The winless Bucs released Freeman after general manager Mark Dominik contacted every other team in the NFL in an unsuccessful attempt to trade Freeman, a 4,000-yard passer a year ago and the team’s career leader with 1,144 completions and 80 touchdowns.
Freeman is owed the remaining $6.25 million on the contract he signed as the third quarterback selected in the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Coach Greg Schiano benched Freeman after he completed only 45.7 percent of his passes and posted a league-low quarterback rating of 59.3 through three games.
Freeman threw for 4,065 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2012, but his inconsistent play down the stretch contributed to the team losing five of six games and failing to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year. He led the Bucs to a 10-6 record — though not a postseason berth — while throwing for 25 TDs and only six interceptions in his first full year as a starter in 2010.
Freeman’s release capped a tumultuous month in which he overslept before missing a team photo shoot, was not voted a captain for time since his rookie year, and reportedly missed at least one other team meeting.
This week, the saga took a messy turn when Freeman released a statement through his agent, saying he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and entered the NFL substance-abuse program more than a year ago after mistakenly taking Ridilin instead of Adderall to treat the condition.
The NFL Players Association is investigating the quarterback’s claim that someone in the Bucs organization leaked confidential information about him being in the program to the media. According to Freeman and Burkhardt, the quarterback has passed all 46 tests administered by the league.
Freeman was declared inactive for last week’s game and watched Glennon’s debut from a suite at Raymond James Stadium. Schiano called that a “mutual decision.”