The Josh Freeman Mess Could Reach A Head Today

Our "Buccaneers" tagpage is a chronicle of sadness, from a staph outbreak to the ignominious shelving of Bucco Bruce to an incipient player mutiny against college-to-pro hardass Greg Schiano to the swift divorce from once-franchise quarterback Josh Freeman. When will this end?

Not until Schiano's contract is bought out in the offseason, most likely. But a good start would be sending Freeman elsewhere. He wants it, the Bucs want it, and it could happen as soon as this week. ESPN's Ed Werder reports that Tampa GM Mark Dominik has called a dozen teams so far, and expects to touch base with the remaining ones by the end of the day.

Things escalated last night, when "league and player sources" leaked to ESPN that Freeman is in Stage 1 of the NFL's drug program. It's confusing, but it basically means Freeman pissed positive for something and is now under extra supervision, including more random testing, but is at least two more failed tests away from a suspension.

Freeman quickly fired back through a statement from his agent. In it, he claimed he has a prescription to treat his ADHD with Adderall, but accidentally took Ritalin and tested positive. (As we've learned, there's no reason to necessarily believe players when they claim their failed tests are due to ADHD medication, since the specific offending substance will never be officially announced.) The most interesting line in the statement is this:

"[I]t appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information."

That's a clear indication that Freeman believes the leak came from someone in the Bucs organization, inexplicably trying to smear him when he's already on the way out.

What does the near future hold for Freeman? About $6 million remaining in guaranteed salary, which could make him all but untradeable. What team would want to shell out that kind of money, plus a draft pick, for a quarterback who was putting up league-worst numbers before being benched? The Bucs could pick up the majority of his remaining contract. While NFL rules don't allow team to send money or pay salaries of traded players, Tampa could restructure Freeman's deal to give him his due cash in the form of a bonus, making him a cheap acquisition for anyone willing to take him on. With the Bucs' leverage currently at slim and hurtling toward none, they may as well just eat Freeman's salary to get him out of town. The alternative to eat his salary as he watches the remaining games from a stadium suite, and this soap opera produces more episodes.

Freeman, and any other Bucs player chafing under Schiano's petty tyranny, will soon have the opportunity to air their grievances. Union director DeMaurice Smith is scheduled to visit Tampa players later today.