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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Dominik still confident in Freeman

MOBILE, Ala. - They are in no hurry to re-sign him and have no intentions of scrapping their plans to bring in someone this offseason who could eventually replace him. But don't let that fool you. Though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't shown Josh Freeman a whole lot of love this winter, they still think he's the quarterback they need to become the consistent Super Bowl contender they want to be. "If you look at what Josh did over a 16-week season and take it all in you realize there are areas you are very excited about and things he did this year that were as good as he's been,'' Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "Some of the big plays he made and the way he used his feet; the way he moved around the pocket, which he did very well this year – that's why you're excited and why he set some of those franchise records.''
Freeman became the first quarterback in Bucs history to throw for 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns this year, but he struggled down the stretch, throwing eight interceptions in two key losses, sparking a minor quarterback controversy. The controversy quickly grew into the Bucs biggest offseason issue when coach Greg Schiano announced his intention to bring in a competitor for Freeman's job and Dominik followed up last week by expressing little desire to re-sign Freeman before his contract expires in 2014. The Bucs aren't altering any of those plans, but with his post-season analysis of Freeman's fourth season now complete, Dominik says he's as confident as ever in Freeman's ability to lead the Bucs. "Obviously Josh wants to have a higher completion percentage,'' Dominik said of the area of Freeman's play that took the biggest dip, falling from a combined 62.1-percent in 2010 and 2011 to 54.8-percent this year. "We all do. "But at the same time, you look at his (7.3) yards per attempt and his two starting receivers' yards per catch (Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams ranked first and eighth respectively with 19.2 and 15.8 marks) and those are significant numbers. "So that is very exciting to me, and to think that we can continue to build the offense and work on the defense now knowing that your quarterback is there, that your running back is there and that you've got two of your receivers, that's encouraging.'' Dominik said he's even more encouraged by the prospect of Freeman playing the 2013 season behind Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks, who missed nine because of a toe injury, and Davin Joseph, who missed all 16 because of a knee injury. "I think continuity is important for Josh, too,'' Dominik said. "It's important for all us. I mean, as happy as I was for (offensive coordinator) Mike Sullivan to get an opportunity to interview for a head coach's job, I'm also glad that he's going to be our offensive coordinator again, because that's going to allow him to continue to be comfortable with the guys we have here. So, when you step back and look at Josh's season as a whole, we're really very encouraged.'' The Bucs aren't encouraged enough to scrap their plans to bring in a competitor who might one day replace Freeman should he fail to play with the consistency the Bucs desire. But Dominik said he has no intentions of forcing that issue. He said he'll consider adding a quarterback through free agency or the draft but will do so only if he can find the right fit. "I think this is an interesting draft class of quarterbacks, because no one is really standing out saying they're the guy and yet there is some depth throughout the class,'' Dominik said. "And it's the same with free agency. Obviously there are one or two guys that may come out of their contract and that could open things up, but we really like Dan Orlovsky and the fact that he helped Josh develop. "So at the end day, we do want to increase the competition, but we won't force the issue. When you force the issue you make a mistake and end up making a poor decision you look back at realize you could have spent the money better in another spot. We won't do that.'' mailto_rcummings@tampatrib.com" name="web">rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTBO
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