Minnesota’s Man?

Josh Freeman needed a place to rehab his reputation and re-prove his ability. The Vikings wanted to find a quarterback of the future. Is it a perfect match?

Josh Freeman arrives in Minnesota determined to prove he can still be a starting quarterback in the NFL. (J. Meric/Getty Images)
Josh Freeman arrives in Minnesota determined to prove he can still be a starter. (J. Meric/Getty Images)

Imagine if the 2009 draft had gone differently. Minnesota Vikings personnel czar Rick Spielman and coach Brad Childress met with quarterback Josh Freeman before the draft at the Scouting Combine, and then hosted him at team headquarters. They saw him at Kansas State, too, on a campus visit. They loved him. We’ll never know what would have happened if the Bucs hadn’t taken Freeman with the 17th pick of the first round and he’d been sitting there for the Vikings at No. 22.

The quarterback they liked gone, Minnesota took wideout/returner Percy Harvin instead.

Four months later, without the quarterback of the present or future on the roster, the Vikings coaxed Brett Favre out of retirement. Favre led the Vikes to the NFC title game, and the infamous Bounty Bowl in New Orleans, and Freeman found a home in Tampa Bay. Until Monday evening, when Freeman walked inside the Vikings facility and Spielman shook his hand.

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“Congratulations,” Spielman said. “Happy to have you as a Viking.”

If Freeman was the pick four years ago, Favre wouldn’t have found his way onto the Minnesota roster. Who knows if Freeman would have had the success in Minnesota he had early on in Tampa Bay. All we know now is Freeman’s time in Tampa ended in ugliness last Thursday, when the Bucs, who tried to deal him to 31 teams but couldn’t find a partner, finally released him. When he could talk with other teams, Freeman picked the Vikings late Sunday night over Oakland and Buffalo (and maybe another mystery team or two), and signed a contract for the final 11 weeks of the season for $2 million. That’s it. Three months, and then Freeman’s likely to be free agent again—unless the two sides fall in love over the next three months and the Vikings make him a long-term offer to be their starter that he can’t refuse. “I think every team would have preferred [a longer deal],” Spielman said from the club’s facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., Monday night. “But this was the parameters we were working with.” Meaning, a contract for the rest of the season only—then the freedom to go anywhere in 2014.

For now, Freeman will sit and learn the Vikings offense this week. (He was beginning to cram with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave Monday night after passing his physical.) And he’ll try to prove the tarnished reputation from the end of his time in Tampa—missing a team photo, being late for a team meal and bus on opening day, and other infractions—can be cleaned up.

“I don’t know what happened down there,” Spielman said of Freeman in Tampa Bay, “and I’m not concerned about it. We’ve done our due diligence, and we came away with no issues. On the field, I don’t know what the play calls were, or the reads he had. I know he had some drops … and there were throws he missed, but we spoke, and I’ll keep those conversations between us.”

There was a line of demarcation, seemingly, for Freeman, somewhere after midseason of 2012. Before, he was a promising young starter. But in the past 10 games, his game’s gone south fast. The Bucs went 1-9 in that span, with Freeman completing just 50.8 percent of his throws.

“I did look at that,” Spielman said. “I actually looked at about 40 of his games over the weekend while we were in the middle of this process. And I came away satisfied about him.”

Freeman has been embraced by Adrian Peterson and the Vikings after a rocky ending to the quarterback's tenure in Tampa Bay. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Freeman has been embraced by Adrian Peterson and the Vikings after a rocky ending to the quarterback’s tenure in Tampa Bay. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Actually, $2 million for the rest of the season—with no obligation for the future—is the best way to enter into a deal with Freeman, the strong-armed quarterback who couldn’t win enough and get along with coach Greg Schiano. If Minnesota finds out some of the issues that plagued Freeman in Tampa are still there, Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier won’t be married to him. He’ll be there three months, and then the Vikings will be able to draft a quarterback of the future next May.

Freeman, 25, will be motivated to be on his best behavior, with his best work ethic. Because if he has issues in Minnesota, there’s no way a team will spend big money on him, and guarantee him a starting job, next off-season. So it’s probably a good deal for both sides … as long as the expectations are not too high on either side.

“In this scenario,” said Spielman, “you’ve just got to take your shot. You have the opportunity to keep a player around for a few months and to learn a lot about him, whether he plays very much or not. When does the opportunity present itself that you don’t have to spend a high draft choice or a big contract to acquire a young quarterback with lots of starting experience. We have the luxury that Josh doesn’t have to be thrown into the fire.”

Spielman said he and Frazier told incumbent starter Christian Ponder they haven’t lost faith in him, but let’s be real: You don’t spend $2 million for three months of a rent-a-player if you don’t intend to use him.

The way I see it, the Vikings have two games to get Freeman ready—he won’t play Sunday against Carolina, and then Minnesota has extra prep time with a Monday-nighter at the Giants the next week. But the next six games underline why Minnesota wanted an upgrade at quarterback: Green Bay at home, at Dallas, Washington at home, at Seattle, at Green Bay, Chicago at home. That’s a rough slate. Expect to see Freeman soon, and often, to see if the Vikings will enter 2014 with their quarterback of the future in-house—or needing to get one in the draft.

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124 comments
Redtheidiot
Redtheidiot

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.  0-4 TB cut him.  By no means are they a model franchise known for wise moves. but coaches on the hot seat certainly dont cut "good" players.

larrybradford
larrybradford

I guess Cassel's most admirable performance means nothing. I am finally understanding why the Vikings seem to go nowhere. Freeman is like Ponder and will throw picks all over the place. I would hang with Cassel and draft a franchise QB next year.

gary41
gary41

Freeman will get more help in Minnesota than Tampa Bay, but mainly he will free of a carping coach & worthless staff.  Musgrave, the OC, was a QB and a QB coach plus they have 2 QB coaches, but the remainder to the season will blow by, with little or no learning curve gains.  It looks mostly like game management, with no errors and enough vertical passing to keep safeties out of the box.  No matter how Freeman does, up or down, it is hard to imagine anyone taking him next year, in favor of a mass of really good looking QB's entering the draft.  In fact the Vikings could be better off with this one year patch-work deal, looking for long term needs in the draft.            

s1an3
s1an3

Well, Russell Wilson and Phillip Rivers and Mike Glennon all went to N.C. State


Uhhh, you sure about that?  Care to make a wager that that list is just a tad wrong?

s1an3
s1an3

Well, Russell Wilson and Phillip Rivers and Mike Glennon all went to N.C. State


Uhhh...you sure about that?  Care to make a small wager that list is a tad incorrect?

Kalzy
Kalzy

Ponders, gravy training wife will find a real estate entrepreneur she can goof around with and dump his "A"

CurtSampson
CurtSampson

I for one think he should write about whatever he wants as well. As far as the Jon Stewart comment, its as funny as hell as well as true. But not only that, the government shutdown does have something to do with the NFL. The NFL, one of the most popular sporting events, wasn't shown last week on the Armed Forces Network because of the government shutdown. So they are related. 

 I love hearing intelligent people's words on the issues that matter. This is his column and he should be able to write things that he believes should go in it. He focuses almost everything on sports and the NFL so a political commentary every once in a while should be okay for anyone to tolerate. Stop being so sensitive.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I wish Freeman the best in Minnesota. Greg Schiano is a franchise killer. A disaster as a coach. Freeman may never be great, but I see him doing well in a system run by intelligent football people.


dr227
dr227

I say write as much as you want about whatever want.  The best part about MMQB is ready the comments.   I can practically all the pudgy fingers typing with extra anger.   say it with me slowly....Diabeetus

Jon8
Jon8

In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term (Redskins)  offensive...

Source CBS

Read it and weep, guy who writes this column!!!

RayHuggyBearYoung
RayHuggyBearYoung

I am very PRO Peter King but he is seriously going to say all the political talk refers to one quote from Jon Stewart?  Does he read his own material?  There are tons of political nuggets.  I for one do not care, I can pick and choose what I read but it obviously gets a lot of other people seething.

pamperofirpo
pamperofirpo

It looks like PK finally read the memo from his advertisers. STOP THE POLITICAL TALK. The vast majority of PK's audience is white males. And, 62% of white males voted for Romney. The advertisers know that it is not good to piss off the vast majority of readers with inane political commentary...especially for a football column.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@s1an3 Wilson transferred to Wisconsin from NC State, dude.  And he was a starter there for three seasons.

cory3015
cory3015

Actually, the statement is quite right. All three played football at NC State.

Jon8
Jon8

@CurtSampson 

No one is saying he should not write what he wishes!

But, once written, then WE have the right to criticize and respond in any way we wish!

So stop being sensitive!!!

Jon8
Jon8

@dr227 Speak for yourself and do not project your deformities and diseases on the rest of us!!

CGGymDog
CGGymDog

@Jon8 See, this is called cherry picking information. The article states that there are "2 million Indians enrolled in 566 federally recognized tribes, plus another 3.2 million who tell the Census they are Indian," and that the 2004 consisted of only 768 people who identified themselves as Native American. Not exactly a large sample group. 

rmcjls
rmcjls

@Jon8 I just read the CBS article about the poll.  It says that in 2004, the number was 9 in 10 unoffended.  But it also says that in the most recent poll--April 2013--it's now 8 in 10.  Draw a trend line, maybe that's why people are beginning to take notice...

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@RayHuggyBearYoung He admits he talks about guns. Otherwise, go ahead, name a few "nuggets." Just because a few dopes on the Internet are all worked up about something doesn't make it a real thing.

Wait, are you thinking of Peter T. King, the Republican congressman from New York? If so, then yes, he talks about politics a lot. Football, not so much, but then again who would want to dwell on the Giants this season? Then again, that Peter King wanted the Republicans to knock it off with the defund-Obamacare stuff, too.

fbfan11
fbfan11

@pamperofirpo I'm a white lesbian scientist who studies air pollution and climate change-needless to say, not a Romney supporter. However, I am a long time reader of PK and MMQB. Football is the most popular sport in America right now, and America is most definitely not composed of white males, so there is no reason to think PK's readership is solely white males. 

On a more important note, as a Bucs fan, I don't think Freeman is a fix for the Vikes long term.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@pamperofirpo A. Aside from the occasional gun issue and referring to a funny line from the Daily Show, please cite some of this "POLITICAL TALK" that's apparently so prevalent. 

B. It's fun that you believe that most of PK's readers are white men, that all those white Romney voters are apparently in favor of shutting down the government (John McCain might beg to differ) and that they're so insecure that they'd stop reading a 1,000-plus-word football column due to, what, four lines that touch on a political issue.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@pamperofirpo ~ Just curious how you know what the demographic makeup of PK's audience is?

Sdwalt
Sdwalt

@Jon8  You have no "rights" here, SI can close this site for comments or block you whenever they feel like it.

DougMartinrules
DougMartinrules

@CGGymDog @Jon8 

Actually, that's a perfectly adequate sample size. For you to have a 95% confidence that your value is +/-5% with a total population of 5 million you would need at least 384 responses.

Jon8
Jon8

@rmcjls @Jon8 

HAHAHAHA! From 90% to 80% with the constant barrage from the Liberal Press!

I'd call that a GD miracle, not a trend!!!

pamperofirpo
pamperofirpo

You have to be kidding. PK continually has made disparaging remarks to "Republicans", "conservatives", and "those tea party members". But, I will say this. Since the new MMQB debuted in August, the political commentary is way down from before. Perhaps PK knows he will look like a fool defending Obama over those nasty "phony scandals". Or, more likely, his advertisers told him to tone the political rhetoric down. It is not a good idea for PK to disparage the ideals of the vast majority of his audience.

josef918
josef918

@SpartanTarget @RayHuggyBearYoung No, let's not pretend the political stuff is limited to one innocuous semi-football related comment in a blue moon.  That's just not the case, and to suggest it's limited like that really makes it seem like you are deliberately trying to hide it.  I'm not going to go digging through columns and cite specific cases, but I know most regular readers will recognize that we can expect, roughly, one politically motivated comment or point in the mmqb articles.  Now, that's not a lot by any measure, but it's not unreasonable to expect that people really want that number to be absolutely zero in their start-of-the-week all-encompassing football article, especially given how vicious and caustic politics are at this point.  Regardless of which side of the aisle you find yourself on, it's just unpleasant sometimes, and you'd rather hear just about football.
Beyond this though, I think that people on this site could possibly overlook the political commentary without much trouble, but the problem I see is that often Peter's comments can be vapid and uninformed.  Which leads to people desperately pointing out the flaws in a simplistic comparison, or false analogy.  Which of course leads to all sorts of back and forth in the comments.  Again, I'm not going to dig up anything, but I know that I've seen this more than a few times.  One instance that comes to mind was in the last year or two, I don't recall exactly, when in comparison to the players' union Peter made a comment about pending anti-union legislation in some Midwest state.  Perhaps another commenter can clear up the details on this, but it really was a comparison that was meant to disparage the governor of the state in question (I believe) that shouldn't have been made, based on the differences in the types of unions in each case, and many commenters took him to task for his ignorance.  It's these sorts of things, in my opinion, that make people just wish Peter would just..speak to football.  No one expects him to be an all-informed political expert, so let's just ditch that and talk about the NFL.  That's why we're here.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@fbfan11 @pamperofirpo C'mon! You're realistic enough to know that climate change is legitimate, but you still believe in the Bucs?!

Kidding aside, keep up the good work.

Jon8
Jon8

@SpartanTarget @pamperofirpo We do not stop reading, we read and then lambaste, the guy who writes this column! (Note: I refuse to use the name of the person who writes this column as I find it offensive!)

Ciscos
Ciscos

@SpartanTarget @pamperofirpo~ Spartan... you get the BOOM award for that post... best line? "... and that they're so insecure that they'd stop reading a 1,000-plus-word football column due to, what, four lines that touch on a political issue."

Luv it!... lol. 

pamperofirpo
pamperofirpo

I am in the advertising business. Media research shows that white males represent the largest part of PK's audience...by far.

peter.io
peter.io

@Jon8 @rmcjls Yikes! Someone blaming the "liberal press"... my spidey senses are tingling...

Jon8
Jon8

@SpartanTarget @Jon8 @rmcjls 

The Redskins were prominently discussed in the guy who writes this column's MMQB on Monday.

This is mailbag day for THAT Monday column!

Now who is not on topic clown??!!!

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@pamperofirpo Sorry, but you too fail the "This happens all the time but I don't have a single example!" Internet stink test.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@josef918 @SpartanTarget @RayHuggyBearYoung I'm a regular MMQB reader, and I don't expect that. So again, prove it. If you can expect "roughly, one politically motivated comment or point in the mmqb articles," then go back to, I dunno, roughly the last column and find one. Or the one before that. Or the one before that. Seriously, this shouldn't require a deep archive dive, according to your own premise. As it stands, you just sound silly. "I'm going to accuse a guy of being political in pretty much every single column, yet offer absolutely no proof." Right. Sorry, but you're pretty sports-oriented, right? Aren't those often driven by statistics? What if PK wrote that Eli Manning throws, roughly, eight interceptions a game, but he didn't feel like offering any support for that assertion. Would you be a bit skeptical?

peter.io
peter.io

@Jon8 @BY @SpartanTarget @pamperofirpo I think you mean your CONSTITUTIONAL right to free speech. Not sure I've ever heard of an "editorial" right to free speech.

That aside, I would consider myself a liberal and I love freedom of expression and am all for it. It has been my experience that when given the opportunity to express one's ideas freely, people will usually show themselves for what they are if given enough time and the best argument will become obvious.

If you have a point, it is lost in your generalizations (liberals do not hate free speech just as conservatives don't all want to shout down anyone who disagrees with them - you are dealing in Glen Beck stereotypes my friend.

As to your opinion of the author of this column, Mr. King, you seem to think that you have a constituency in saying that you want him to know what "we" think of him. I think if you look at most of what is being written here, you will find that, agree or disagree with his views, most people here respect his skill as a journalist and enjoy his column and are rather passionate about it so I am uncertain exactly whom you think you are speaking for beyond yourself.

Finally, if you think that you are somehow hurting Mr. King by posting personal attacks on him and refusing to use his name in writing about him, I think you are deluding yourself. Love the column or hate it, you ARE reading it and contributing to its page hit counts (which advertisers use as a basis for how much they pay for advertisements they place on the site). So, you are doing your part to pay the proverbial rent.

I'm not sure you have thought this out very clearly.

Jon8
Jon8

@BY @Jon8 @SpartanTarget @pamperofirpo

I am exercising my editorial right to free speech!

I know how much you Liberals hate free speech!!

The guy who writes this column has a right to his say and so do I. I want him to know what we think of him!!

Otherwise, he might think he is beloved!!!

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@Ciscos @SpartanTarget @pamperofirpo Heck, I don't actually think they are -- my dad's a conservative guy, and we both read MMQB. It cracks me up when people make that assumption, though. I mean, a lot of sports talk radio guys tend to be conservative and I keep listening -- I just let my mind wander whenever the conversation gets political. 

peter.io
peter.io

@pamperofirpo I would be interested in looking at that research... can you provide links or citations to the material that backs up what you claim? I think it is a fair to ask where you are claiming expertise in the field as the basis of what you write.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@pamperofirpo And again, are all those white men made of candy glass? If someone repeats a Republican-criticizing quote from the Daily Show, do they all shut off their monitors and start weeping? Christ, if these guys are out for the night and someone they're with makes a comment criticizing Republicans, do they halt the conversation, walk out of the restaurant and drive away?

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