By Eric Schmidt

At the mid-season mark of the 2012 NFL regular season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman looked as if he had finally found his stride. He looked like he was on the cusp of becoming the franchise quarterback that the Buccaneers had hoped that he would become. As the season went on however, Freeman’s play on the field regressed. He became jumpy in the pocket when bodies were around him and the turnovers which plagued his season in 2011, returned.

At the conclusion of the 2012 season first-year head coach Greg Schiano told reporters that the Buccaneers plan on bringing in another quarterback to challenge Freeman next season. Dan Orlovsky is currently under contract for the 2013 season but he really is better built as being a backup. So which quarterback do the Buccaneers coaching staff have their eyes on to challenge Freeman next year?

The free agent class at quarterback is considered thin, but there are going to be veterans that have starting experience in the league available. I know many of the Tampa fans have been calling for the team to bring in Alex Smith. Let’s clear this up right now, Smith is not coming to Tampa. Tampa has money to spend on the salary cap this offseason, but a lot of that money is going to be thrown on the defensive side of the ball.

Some other names you can probably discount as well. Michael Vick. Matt Flynn. Vick will find a starting job somewhere this season and Flynn has only two career starts in the NFL and couldn’t beat out Russell Wilson in training camp and would require a trade.

Then you get to the next layer of players with starting experience. Brady Quinn, Matt Cassel (who is likely to be released), A.J. Feeley. Exciting names.

Jason Campbell is an interesting name. He has 77 starts under his belt. His best season came in 2009 with the Washington Redskins throwing for 3,618 yards and 20 touchdowns.

What about David Garrard? Possibly bring him in for a workout this offseason. He looked good in training camp for the Dolphins this season, but the team decided to move forward with Matt Moore backing up Ryan Tannehill. He has 77 career starts.

Speaking of Matt Moore, he has some intrigue surrounding him. He looked solid for the Dolphins in his starts during the 2011 season. He looked like the possible quarterback of the future of the Carolina Panthers at the end of the 2009 season, but struggled in 2010. Rumors suggest he might be on the New York Jets radar this offseason. I think the Buccaneers might try to make a push for Moore.

Since the Buccaneers have already announced that they have no intentions of extending Freeman’s contract as he plays into the final season of his rookie deal, perhaps the Buccaneers simply aren’t sold on him under center. After all, this coaching staff didn’t draft him.

There might be a darkhorse on the horizon here. Greg Schiano has a relationship with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Could the Buccaneers possibly be eyeing Patriots backup Ryan Mallett? This move would require a trade and most likely a high draft choice. Would the Buccaneers be willing to surrender possibly a third or even second round pick in order to acquire Mallett? Bring him in and let him play one season behind Josh Freeman or perhaps even trade Freeman.

If the Buccaneers decide to move on from Freeman, they will most likely be starting a rookie signal caller in 2014.

Of course, all of this posturing by the Buccaneers coaching staff could be just to get a fire lit under Freeman and get him to reach his potential while becoming more consistent. Either way, the heat is on Freeman for the 2013 season, perhaps he can channel in inner Flacco in the final year of his rookie contract.

 

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