Most of us were shocked or at least pretty surprised when the Vikings jumped on Josh Freeman after his release from the Buccaneers, but in retrospect maybe we shouldn’t have been. Dig back into the history a little bit, as Peter King did for his Tuesday MMQB piece on Freeman, and you realize that Rick Spielman has always coveted this particular quarterback.
Rewind to the 2009 NFL draft, when the Vikings held the #22 overall pick. Freeman was a guy Spielman and then-coach Brad Childress were heavily into as a potential franchise QB (Tarvaris Jackson having already proven he wasn’t the guy). They visited Freeman at Kansas State and “loved him” according to King. But to their chagrin, the Buccaneers took him at #17, leaving them with no attractive QB options (they weren’t that into Pat White or Stephen McGee).
The Vikes ended up using their pick on Percy Harvin, and we know how that turned out. A few years of stellar performance and then the big trade partly precipitated by Harvin’s attitude, partly by the Vikings’ unwillingness to overpay for a wide receiver whose physical style of play almost guarantees that he will be continually injured.
The Vikes’ QB solution back in 2009 was to bring in Brett Favre, a move that worked beautifully for one year. And we all know what happened after that. A disastrous second campaign for Favre, followed by the drafting of Christian Ponder and the trade for Donovan McNabb. Ponder quickly took over as starter but has not developed as quickly as everyone hoped.
Despite public statements of confidence in Ponder, you had to suspect that Vikings brass were growing weary of Ponder’s slow progress, especially in light of superstar Adrian Peterson’s ever-shortening shelf life. So how excited must Spielman have been when the guy he wanted all along suddenly became available? It must have felt like Christmas times ten thousand.
Knowing what we know now, it should be no surprise that Josh Freeman is a Viking. He was the guy Spielman wanted all those years ago. And Christian Ponder? He was the guy the Vikings settled for back in 2011, and hoped might work out if they could tweak the system to work around his limitations. But it’s pretty obvious now that this offense, which is built around Adrian Peterson, needs a deep threat to truly function, and Ponder is not the man to deliver that deep threat.
Josh Freeman, the guy Spielman always coveted, may be the one to finally make this offense work the way it is supposed to work. The Vikes will now have the rest of the season to evaluate Freeman and decide if they want to make a long-term commitment. As Spielman himself told Peter King, “In this scenario you’ve just got to take your shot. You have the opportunity to keep a player around for a few months and to learn a lot about him, whether he plays very much or not. When does the opportunity present itself that you don’t have to spend a high draft choice or a big contract to acquire a young quarterback with lots of starting experience?”
Spielman might have said, “When does the opportunity present itself for you to get the guy you wanted to draft five years ago but missed out on? And he’s still young enough to become the franchise QB you envisioned him to be?” Thanks to Greg Schiano, Spielman gets a do-over. Let’s hope Freeman rewards Spielman’s faith with good performance and some wins.