MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Freeman is headed to Minnesota.
Freeman’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, revealed the move in a one-word tweet Sunday night: “Vikings!!!” Burkhardt then confirmed to The Associated Press in a phone interview that the 25-year-old quarterback agreed to a deal.
This became quite the bye week for the Vikings (1-3), who took a big step away from Christian Ponder by giving Freeman a $3 million contract for the rest of the season. Freeman was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, a week after being benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
Ponder, the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2011, struggled in the first three games of the season, all losses. He threw five interceptions and lost two fumbles and didn’t get much help from an offensive line that couldn’t keep the pressure off of him, or open holes for Adrian Peterson.
Matt Cassel took over in the last game while Ponder rested his injured ribs, and he gave the struggling unit a jolt. Cassel brought some much-needed rhythm and timing to the offense while throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 win over Pittsburgh in London.
The winless Bucs released Freeman during their bye week after general manager Mark Dominik contacted every other team in the NFL in an unsuccessful attempt to trade Freeman, a 4,000-yard passer a year ago and the team’s career leader with 1,144 completions and 80 touchdowns.
Freeman is owed the remaining $6.25 million on the contract he signed as the third quarterback selected in the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.
Coach Greg Schiano benched Freeman after he completed only 45.7 percent of his passes and posted a league-low quarterback rating of 59.3 through three games.
Freeman threw for 4,065 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2012, but his inconsistent play down the stretch contributed to the team losing five of six games and failing to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year. He led the Bucs to a 10-6 record — though not a postseason berth — while throwing for 25 TDs and only six interceptions in his first full season as a starter in 2010.
JOECKEL OUT FOR SEASON: Jacksonville rookie offensive tackle Luke Joeckel will miss the rest of the season because of a broken right ankle.
Joeckel was injured in the first quarter of a 34-20 loss to the Rams on Sunday in St. Louis. He was taken off the field on a cart.
Joeckel got his leg rolled up as he was blocking on a running play.
He was selected by the Jaguars with the second pick in this year’s draft.
“I saw it happen, and it’s unfortunate,” said quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who also left the game with an injury. “It wasn’t pretty.”
Gabbert strained his left hamstring in the third quarter. Playing in his hometown, he was 9-of-19 for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before leaving.