Free-agent defensive back Ronde Barber had a sideline view of every snap in Freeman's four (sometimes maddening) seasons in the NFL. During a Monday appearance on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access," Barber spoke candidly about Freeman's hugely important 2013.
"I think Coach (Greg Schiano) wants to find out if Josh is the guy because Josh shows moments of complete brilliance," Barber said. "Yet he gives you the moments where you're scratching your head as well. It's kind of reflective of our season and as a whole last year.
"Coach Schiano did not draft him, even though (general manager) Mark (Dominik)'s married to him because he was with him when (former Bucs coach) Raheem (Morris) drafted him. But you have to believe that Josh Freeman is our franchise quarterback. He fits the build. He has the arm. He understands the mechanics of the game. Like I said, when he's good, he's really, really good. We just need him to be that player with more consistency."
Will Freeman play for his job next season?
"I would imagine so," Barber replied. "That's just the nature of football. (When) you have a new coach, which we had last year, you're proving yourself to him, and Josh has to do that."
The Bucs would like to fashion themselves as NFC contenders. That especially will be true if they manage to acquire a certain New York Jets defender.
Freeman is the key, however.