By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I want the Eagles to take a chance on Josh Freeman. I can’t imagine this is going to happen, but I would be elated if it did.
I mentioned it during the offseason when it became clear that Greg Schiano wanted his own guy behind center for the Bucs, and they wouldn’t be offering Freeman an extension. I thought about it again when Schiano benched Freeman in favor of Mike Glennon. I mentioned it again on the WIP Morning Show last week when his name came up. I resisted writing about it, because I was afraid of a permanent record of this idea, but I just can’t take it anymore.
Consider the following stat line:
16 games started, 3,500 yards passing, 62.8% completions, 25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 7.8 yards per attempt, 364 yards rushing, and a 95.9 quarterback rating.
That stat line is Josh Freeman’s in 2010, when he led the Tampa Bay Bucs to a 10-6 record. He was just 22 years old, a year after the Bucs selected him 17th overall in the NFL Draft. Before Greg Schiano got a chance to decide he didn’t like him. Before the team was leaking strange half-truths about a drug problem. Before his coach rigged a locker room election and removed Freeman’s captaincy, and his legs out from under him.
I want you to try and think of any time in the last 25 years that an Eagles quarterback has had a comparable stat line over a full season. Done thinking yet? Shouldn’t take you long, because there’s just about one of them that hits all of those numbers. That’s Donovan McNabb’s MVP-type season in 2004. In fact, McNabb surpassed a 95.9 quarterback rating just once in his entire career in Philadelphia. Michael Vick surpassed that QB rating just once in his career as well, in 2010, when he was an MVP runner-up to Tom Brady.
In fact, when you combine every season of McNabb and Vick’s careers, you get a total of zero times that they’ve completed as many as 62.8 percent of their passes.
Josh Freeman is just 25 years old, and still has a good chance to be a very good NFL quarterback. You don’t even need to look back as far as 2010. Just last year, during a nine-game stretch between October 14th and December 9th, Freeman threw for 19 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, the Bucs won five of those games, and they looked like a playoff team. The first five games of that stretch, Freeman notched QB ratings of 124.7, 115.2, 104.2, 108.6, 137.5.
Josh Freeman is not a fast guy per se, but he’s certainly mobile enough, provided he gets in better shape than he’s reported to be in, to run Kelly’s offense. He ran for 300+ yards in 2010, and ran for 400+ yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season at Kansas State.
Either Josh Freeman had an entire lucky season in 2010 and a very lucky stretch in 2012, there’s something there. I think the Eagles should see which one it is. Did Josh Freeman fall off a cliff or did Greg Schiano push him?
Michael Vick is not the future in Philadelphia. Nick Foles is not the future in Philadelphia. If Matt Barkley is, I’m not sure he’s convinced anyone of that so far.
If the Bucs decide they have the leverage to trade Freeman to one of the nine teams who can fit him under the salary cap this year, it wouldn’t take much. I can’t imagine it would be more than a fifth or sixth round pick. If they release him, the decision becomes much easier.
It’s true, he’ll be a free-agent after this season. But in a season for the Eagles that will not end with a championship, and has needs at several positions that they’ll need to address during the offseason, there is no better time than now. If you’re going to lose some games, lose them for a purpose.
Imagine if he figures it out. Imagine if Freeman is the guy that can be the QB in Philadelphia for the next 8-10 years. That first round pick next year can be spent on something other than a quarterback, to fill another need. Sometimes a guy needs a change of scenery, and I think that might be the case with Freeman.
There are multiple hurdles, to be sure. It’s not going to happen. It would take the Eagles sacrificing either Barkley or Foles. It would mean Freeman would have to adjust to an entire new offense rather quickly. It would mean the Eagles taking a risk on a guy who may not have it together mentally. But without great risk, there cannot be great reward.
A boss once told me that being risky is safe, and being safe is risky. Chip Kelly has always been a guy who believes in that. Josh Freeman is a risk worth taking.