Vikings sign Freeman to 1-year deal
After being courted by eight to 10 teams following his release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, quarterback Josh Freeman agreed to a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, who spent the previous several days pretending there was no quarterback controversy.
The Vikings opened the season with three losses with Christian Ponder as the starting quarterback. Then, with Ponder sidelined with a rib injury, veteran Matt Cassel led the Vikings to a 34-27 over the Pittsburgh Steelers in England, putting Ponder's future as a starter in doubt.
And then. . .
Freeman's agent, Erik Burkhardt, made the announcement Sunday night with a tweet that read simply: "Vikings!!!"
NFL.com reported Freeman will receive a one-year deal worth approximately $3 million.
Freeman's arrival comes as the Vikings were trying to pretend there was no quarterback controversy after Matt Cassel stepped in for injured Christian Ponder last week in England and led the team to a 34-27 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Cassel's performance threw a hand grenade into Ponder's job security, then the signing of Freeman was a bomb.
A 2011 first-round pick, Ponder started 10 games as a rookie, all 16 last year, then the first three games this year before sitting out last week due to a fractured rib. The Vikings were idle Sunday.
Ponder is 12-17 as a starter with a 75.8 passer rating and a 59.2 percent completion rate. He averages 183 passing yards per game, and he has 33 career touchdown passes and 30 interceptions.
The Oakland Raiders were considered to be the favorite for Freeman's services, with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers also reportedly in the mix.
The Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers reportedly did not pursue Freeman.
Since Freeman is still owed more than $6 million by the Buccaneers, he was more interested in the scope of the opportunity, the stability and quality of the coaching staff and the amount of interest from the team than financial considerations, according to CBSsports.com.
Freeman lost his job as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback after losing the first three games this year. In five seasons with Tampa Bay, he posted a 24-35 record with a 78.8 passer rating and a 58.2 percent completion rate. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 80-to-66, and he produced 225.6 passing yards per game.
The NFL Players Association is still investigating last week's leaks about Freeman's participation in the league's drug program. The NFLPA said that Bucs coach Greg Schiano had at least one conversation with Freeman about his drug status, as Freeman decided to be tested at the team facility because of convenience and he said he had nothing to hide. Schiano last week vehemently denied that he leaked the information. The union also alleges that team employees voluntarily gave information to the press about Freeman.
The NFLPA is also appealing fines given to Freeman by the Bucs before they released him. The Bucs fined Freeman for allegedly being late to meetings and for having an "unauthorized" interview with ESPN.
Even before Freeman was signed, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was obviously impressed by Cassel's performance, or, perhaps depressed by Ponder's.
After the game, Frazier obviously didn't leave enough time to prepare himself for the quarterback questions that would flow. So he essentially answered the same question three different ways.
No. 1: "Just with the naked eye, (Cassel) did a good job. It's been a while since I've been able to stand up here and not talk about us turning the ball over." Ponder has seven of the team's 10 turnovers this season.
No. 2: "If you're asking, our quarterback is Christian Ponder."
No. 3: "I'd have to look at the tape, look at our football team, and then come back and evaluate what we need to do to come back a better football team."
Ponder wasn't solely to blame for the 0-3 start. The offensive line played two horrendous games. The defense collapsed late in two of those games. But one can't deny there was better rhythm with Cassel, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 123.1 passer rating. In 29 starts for the Vikings, Ponder never has had a passer rating higher than 120.2.