With the injury to Jake Locker in their win over the Jets this past weekend, the Tennessee Titans need to explore the possibility of trading for exiled Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, as the Bucs don’t appear to be willing to release him and let him go for nothing. It’d be a low-risk move for the Titans that could help them to continue their impressive start to the season and keep their playoff hopes alive in a wide-open AFC, at least until Locker can get back on the field.
Locker is projected to be out four to eight weeks, but because it’s a hip injury, the Titans would be better off preparing for him to miss eight weeks, if not longer. Ryan Fitzpatrick may have seemed like a nice veteran to back up Locker at the beginning of the season, but he may not be the kind of quarterback the Titans have to rely on over an eight-week period. He doesn’t have a big arm, he’s not that mobile, and he doesn’t have a great track record over his career. There are reasons why Fitzpatrick has a losing record as a starter, and why he couldn’t find a job as a starter this season after the Bills released him. Tennessee needs to at least consider alternatives at quarterback who are better than Fitzpatrick, and Freeman fits that description.
The Titans are off to a surprising 3-1 start this season, but their success in September hasn’t been a fluke. Tennessee has been one of the top defensive teams in the NFL through the first month of the season, and that side of the ball has fueled their early-season success. Offensively, they’ve gotten by with a solid but unspectacular running game and mistake-free play from Locker, who has started to turn the corner in his third NFL season before getting derailed by this latest injury. Locker has gotten a lot of help this season from a solid receiving trio of Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, and Delanie Walker, while the Titans could also get significant contributions from Kenny Britt and rookie Justin Hunter as the season moves forward.
Freeman would give the Titans a quarterback with a big arm that could get the ball into the hands into a group of receivers with plenty of talent and potential. With a quarterback like Freeman that has some mobility and that can throw the ball downfield, the Titans can continue to utilize their receivers and score enough points to complement their strong defense. There’s no denying that Freeman has fallen on hard times and hasn’t played well this season, but he has plenty of talent. It’s possible that all Freeman needs is a change of scenery to help him turn things around after his well-publicized dispute with Tampa head coach Greg Schiano. Going to a team that wants him and that’s in position to make a postseason run could help to re-focus and re-invigorate Freeman.
Moreover, Freeman would come cheap and would offer little risk. If the Buccaneers trade him, the Titans wouldn’t have to give up anything more than a late-round draft pick, and because he’s a free agent after this season, the Titans wouldn’t have to make any long-term commitment to Freeman; it’d simply be a way for Freeman to showcase himself for other teams while helping the Titans survive the injury to Locker. It would be a short-term arrangement that could end up being beneficial for both sides.
Bringing in Freeman wouldn’t exactly be playing it safe, but if the Titans want to remain in contention until Locker gets back, which may not happen until December, they may have to take a chance on Freeman. Fitzpatrick’s track record isn’t any better than Freeman’s, but at least with Freeman they’d have a quarterback with loads of talent who’d be excited to get out of Tampa Bay and have a chance to play heading into free agency this offseason. If the Titans don’t want to waste a promising start to the season, they should at least consider trading for Freeman to help them win a few games and stay relevant in the AFC until Locker can return from injury.