If the Buccaneers have a plan for dealing with the aftermath of benching quarterback Josh Freeman, we’re not sure what it is.
We’re not sure they’re sure, either.
Six days ago, the former franchise quarterback officially fell out of favor with the franchise, removed from his starting job and, by Sunday, lanced from the active, game-day roster. Already paid more than $490,000 to not play, the Buccaneers are now trying to find a way to unload the remaining $6.44 million by trading him.
And by calling every team and asking if they want to trade for Freeman, the Buccaneers hardly are operating from a position of strength.
If/when (when) they don’t find a trade partner, they’ll have three options: (1) hope a starting quarterback suffers a serious injury in the next four weeks; (2) cut Freeman and pay the balance of his base salary (currently, $6.44 million); or (3) try to build a case for a suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, or disqualification for termination pay. (Per a league source, the Bucs have not yet provided the written notice warning him that he risks losing his right to termination pay by failing to show the required “good faith” in his employment.)
The smart move after Monday night’s unexpected turn for the worse would be to cut Freeman, pay Freeman, close the books, and move on. Give him what he wants in order to get what the Bucs need.
But the Bucs appear to be intent on continuing to push the issue, clumsily trying to build a case to keep all or part of the money they owe him. The latest twist came Monday, when as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported the Bucs told Freeman not to attend a team meeting, creating the impression among teammates that he’d skipped it.
After the latest twist broke, G.M. Mark Dominik said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, that Dominik excused Freeman from the 7:45 a.m. ET team meeting because coach Greg Schiano wanted to talk to Freeman about the events that transpired Monday night.
That makes no sense, and it’s starting to make Dominik look like George Kokinis to Eric Mangini, an ultimately toothless figurehead who is doing whatever the coach tells him to do — no matter how ill-advised it may be.
Given today’s development, it appears that Schiano wants to provoke Freeman into doing something that can be characterized as conduct detrimental to the team, so that Freeman can be suspended and up to four of those $490,000 game checks can be withheld.
But it all seems to be backfiring. The players now seem to be getting wise to what’s going on, making the distraction even bigger and the urgency to move on from Freeman even greater.
Still, the Bucs (i.e., Schiano) continue to refuse to give Freeman what he wants, even if it’s what he so desperately needs.