EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' quarterbacks group officially became a foursome today when the team signed Josh Freeman, a former first-round draft choice who played last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings.
"I'm definitely excited about being a part of this great organization," said Freeman, who joined the team on the first day of the offseason conditioning program. "Obviously, it's a chance to go play quality football, learn from some great coaches, learn from a great quarterback in Eli (Manning) and just be a part of a great organization. The atmosphere is great here, great facilities. Everyone I've met has been awesome. Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Freeman's quarterbacks coach in Minnesota was Craig Johnson, who is now the Giants' running backs coach.
"Craig is a guy I've gotten to know really well," Freeman said. "He's a great coach and a mentor, a friend. It's pretty cool having him here as well."
Freeman, 6-6 and 248 pounds, joins Manning, veteran Curtis Painter and second-year pro Ryan Nassib as quarterbacks on the current roster. If nothing changes, the Giants will bring four quarterbacks to training camp for the second year in a row; in 2013, Manning, Painter and Nassib were joined by David Carr, who was released at the end of camp. The Giants kept three quarterbacks in the regular season for the first time since 2007.
Freeman, 26, is expected to compete for what would be the lone backup quarterback job if the Giants decide to keep just two players at that position. The Giants could use an extra quarterback this spring and summer. Manning two weeks ago underwent an arthroscopic procedure on the ankle he sprained in the 2013 season finale and is not expected to run for at least another month. And this year the Giants will open training camp early and play a fifth preseason game because of their participation in the Hall of Fame Game.
"Today, having the opportunity to sit in meetings and be around the guys in the room, from Eli to Curtis, Ryan, it's a great group of guys," Freeman said. "I'm excited and am looking forward to learning about everybody and getting to know the team."
Ironically, Freeman's most recent game was against the Giants. On Oct. 21, 2013 he started in a Monday night game less than two week after joining Minnesota. In his only appearance as a member of the Vikings, he completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception in a 23-7 Giants victory.
View photos from the career of QB Josh Freeman
"When you're in the thick of things you want to be a competitor, you want to play," he said. "But at the same time you want to have a chance to learn the system and things of that nature. As a competitor, it's just another experience to learn from. I took what I could from it and am moving forward."
Freeman also started the first three games of the season for Tampa Bay – losses to the Jets, New Orleans and New England – before his release on Oct. 3. He was signed by the Vikings five days later. Freeman's 2013 totals included 63 completions in 147 attempts (42.9 percent) for 761 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 52.6. He concedes he was frustrated by his circumstances in the 2013 season.
"I think, as a competitor, I don't really see myself in that situation," he said. "It's definitely a change of pace for me and frustrating on the field. I don't really see that happening again as long as I'm playing. I expect to go out and when I play, play well. Last year was rough all around, but I'm happy to get a new start here and have an opportunity to be there for the Giants and see where it goes."
In his first five NFL seasons, Freeman played in 61 games with 60 starts (his record is 24-36). From 2009-12, he completed 1,101 of 1,873 passes (58.8 percent) for 12,963 yards, 78 touchdowns and 63 interceptions for a passer rating of 79.8. Freeman also has rushed for 922 yards and four touchdowns on 197 carries. Freeman said there is "no question" he can again play at that level.
"It's a big thing, getting on a team and getting in the offseason program," he said. "I'm learning the offense, working and trying to fill my role as best I can."
Freeman entered the NFL as the Bucs' first round draft choice in 2009 from Kansas State, the 17th overall selection. He completed two of four passes in his pro debut, in reserve of Josh Johnson in a loss to the Patriots on Oct. 25. Freeman has started each of the 60 games he has played since. His first start was on Nov. 8, 2009, when he completed 14 of 31 passes in a victory over Green Bay.
Freeman missed only one game in the next three seasons. In 2010, he started every contest for a Tampa Bay team that finished 10-6, but did not make the playoffs. (The Giants also failed to qualify that season with the same record.) That season, Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions and finished with a career-high passer rating of 95.9.
In 2011, Freeman started all 15 games in which he played, missing one with a shoulder injury. He completed a career-high 346 passes (on 551 attempts) and had a career-best completion percentage of 62.8. But he also threw a career-high 22 interceptions against 16 touchdown passes.
The following year, Freeman reversed those numbers (a career-best 27 touchdown passes, 17 picks) while starting all 16 games. He had career-high totals of 558 passes and 4,065 yards.
At Kansas State, Freeman played in 35 games with 32 starts and set school records in pass attempts (1,151), completions (680), completion percentage (59.0), passing yards (8,078) and touchdown passes (44). Freeman also set a record with 8,421 yards in total offense He was the first Kansas State quarterback ever drafted in the first round.
Freeman threw for more than 7,000 yards at Grandview High School in Kansas City.