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Two months ago the Minnesota Vikings signed free agent Josh Freeman, giving him $2 million for the final 12 weeks of the season.
The specifics of the deal — a relatively lucrative contract that ends after 2013 — made it look like the Vikings would give Freeman the starting job.
You don't sign a young quarterback with off-field issues to a one-year deal unless you're going to play him. In addition, the Vikings other two QBs are mediocre at best.
But that isn't what happened.
Freeman started one game — a 23-7 loss to the New York Giants in which he played terribly — before being demoted to third-string. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel have passed the starting job back and forth ever since.
There's no indication that Freeman will play at all in the final three weeks.
The Vikings can cut Freeman at any time and won't owe him a dime. So why do they continue to give him a fat check every week when they could sign any third-stringer off the street to do the same thing for far less money?
As ProFootballTalk points out, there's only one tangible benefit of keeping Freeman on the roster until the end of the year — they get exclusive negotiating rights with him once he becomes a free agent in March.
That doesn't sound like a very convincing reason.
But if the Vikings really do believe in Freeman and have a long-term plan for him, it makes sense.
A few weeks ago, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN that he's optimistic about Freeman, but he can't learn the offense without a training camp:
"The Vikings have been working with Freeman on his footwork all season, and he's still seemed to struggle with his accuracy in the times I've watched him in practice. Frazier also said on Nov. 20 that while Freeman has put in the work to learn the Vikings' offense, adding he'd surpassed the team's expectations based on what they had heard about him, it would be hard for the quarterback to have a 'complete grasp' of the offense when he wasn't with the team in training camp."
The suggestion is that Freeman would be effective if he had a full offseason to adapt.
It's costing them some money, but the Vikings are keeping their 2014 options open by keeping Freeman on the roster.
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