Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com/WTSP) - The saga between Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is now over. The former starting quarterback was released on Thursday, ending the 2009 first-round draft pick's often-turbulent four-year tenure with the team.
The Buccaneers apparently were unable to find a trade partner for Freeman, who was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon after a loss at New England in Week 3. The 25-year-old is still due more than $6 million in guaranteed money this season, the final year of his original contract.
Freeman, taken by Tampa Bay with the 17th overall selection of the 2009 draft, had been one of the league's most promising young quarterbacks just two years ago after throwing for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions during his sophomore campaign. His play has regressed notably since, however, while numerous reports swirled of a reported strained relationship with head coach Greg Schiano.
The Buccaneers lost their first three games of 2013 with Freeman under center, with the Kansas State product completing just 45.7 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and three interceptions over that span. Glennon, a third-round choice in this past year's draft, was then installed as the starter for last week's 13-10 setback to Arizona, with Freeman a gameday inactive as the No. 3 quarterback.
Freeman's release comes one day after Sports Illustrated reported that he had been fined twice by the Buccaneers in the past month for conduct detrimental to the team. One was for an unauthorized interview with ESPN and the other for skipping at least one team meeting.
"We appreciate his efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers," Tampa general manager Mark Dominik said in a statement.
More drama from the situation came about earlier this week, when news broke that Freeman had been placed in Stage 1 of the NFL's drug program for testing positive for a banned substance. That led to Freeman issuing a statement acknowledging that he takes prescribed medication for ADHD, and that his positive test came from accidentally using Ritalin instead of Adderall.
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said on Tuesday that the union was looking into whether the Buccaneers leaked information about Freeman's inclusion in the drug program to the media. Schiano in turn denied that he was the source of the leak.
Freeman compiled a 24-35 record over his four-plus seasons as Tampa Bay's starter, throwing for 13,534 yards and 80 touchdowns with 66 interceptions during that stretch.
Glennon completed 24-of-43 passes for 193 yards in his NFL debut last week, but tossed a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions that helped the Cardinals score 13 unanswered points in the final period.
Here is Mark Dominik's full statement on Freeman's release:
"We made the decision today to release Josh Freeman. We appreciate his efforts over the past five seasons, but we felt this was in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers."
The Buccaneers drafted Freeman in 2009 and he played in 60 games with 59 starts for the team. He was replaced as the team's starter by rookie QB Mike Glennon prior to the fourth game of this season."