Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
This is the year for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to put up or shut up. It's the final year of the five-year deal he signed as a rookie.
When Freeman entered the NFL in 2009 his Buccaneers didn't have much offensive talent around him. Think running back Cadillac Williams on the down side of his career after knee surgery and receivers Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow Jr. as his top offensive weapons.
So his early struggles were not his fault and even expected.
But Bucs' management has done their job well and has now surrounded their quarterback with plenty of armament.
Freeman has a top running back in second-year tailback Doug Martin. He's multi- talented, both as a runner (1,454 yards, 11 TDs in 2012) and pass receiver (49-472-1).
The Bucs have two quality receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams and adequate tight ends in Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree (formerly of Green Bay).
So it's time for Freeman to prove he's a winning quarterback or be ready to be a backup somewhere else.
Freeman knows it too, though he says it isn't the most important factor.
"Yeah, it's a big year and professionally it's the biggest year I've had from that standpoint," he told the Tampa Bay Times last week.
Freeman has been the starter in Tampa for three and a half seasons, but has only been a fantasy-worthy quarterback for maybe a dozen games, most of them in 2010, when he posted an excellent 25:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
He has improved his passing yards-per-game average in each of his first four seasons to a respectable 254.1 ypg last year, but it was only in 2010 that he finished among the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks.
The main culprit is a low completion percentage. Freeman completed just 54.8 percent last season and has never completed 64 percent of his passes in the NFL or college (Kansas State).
And if Freeman can't improve his passing, the handwriting is already on the wall, as the Bucs chose North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon with their third round pick (No. 73 overall) in April. Glennon probably isn't ready to challenge for the starting role this season, but all bets are off in 2014 if Freeman can't become a more efficient quarterback.
The Sports Network has projected Freeman to throw for 3,955 yards and 28 touchdowns against 16 interceptions worth 242 fantasy points. Whether that's enough production to earn a new deal and keep his starting spot is up to coach Greg Schiano, but for fantasy owners it likely means a low-end starter at best, which will have to be supplemented with a decent second quarterback capable of starting multiple weeks.
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