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Josh Freeman signed with the Minnesota Vikings on a one year, $3 million deal last night, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.
The specifics of the deal suggest that Freeman is going to get every opportunity to start this year.
He's now the highest-paid quarterback on the team on a week-by-week basis. Back-up Matt Cassel makes $1.65 million in base salary and starter Christian Ponder makes $1.3 million. Salary doesn't always dictate who gets playing time, but that's a significant investment.
The length of the contract also gives us a clue into the team's thinking. If they saw Freeman as a valuable prospect that they could develop over time, they would have given him a multi-year deal (or least an option for multiple years). You only give a guy a one-year deal if you think he can contribute immediately.
The Vikings have no depth issues at quarterback either. They already have a solid back-up in Cassel. There's no point in bringing a guy with Freeman's baggage to be the third-string insurance policy.
Minnesota didn't bring in Freeman as a back-up or a long-term project. They brought him in to play.
It's understandable, considering how badly Ponder has played this year.
The advanced stats say Ponder is one of the 10 worst starters in the league. His numbers in completion percentage, touchdowns, and interceptions have all regressed from last year — when they weren't that great to begin with. The Vikings picked him 12th overall in 2011, but he has been plagued by mistakes and inconsistency.
Cassel played well against Pittsburgh when Ponder got hurt, but he's not a long-term solution.
While Freeman has been worse than both of those guys this year, he has at least shown flashes that he's capable of being a franchise quarterback. In 2010 he completed 61% of his passes, threw 25 TDs to just 6 INTs, and finished the season with a 95.9 QB rating.
There's a reason why the Bills and the Raiders both wanted to sign Freeman. He's only 25 years old and he's clearly talented. The NFL in 2013 is all about finding a young, franchise quarterback. It's the most important position in any sport, and teams are willing to burn through player after player until they find someone who sticks.
Freeman at least has the potential to be that guy. Maybe there's a 5% chance that he pans out, but it's a chance. The Vikings are betting that a change of scenery and a better coaching situation will get him back to where he was in 2010.
Ponder is still listed as the starter for this week against Carolina, but expect Freeman to get a serious look at the starting job once he's settled in.
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