TAMPA - Josh Freeman will begin the season as the Bucs' No. 2 quarterback, a role coach Raheem Morris believes will accelerate the development of the team's first-round draft pick this year.
The Bucs had an eye on the future when they traded Luke McCown to Jacksonville on Saturday. Freeman will back up starter Byron Leftwich, and second-year pro Josh Johnson is elevated to No. 3 on the depth chart.
"Everything we do has a thought process for Freeman," Morris said. "It has to. I'm scared to say this again because I don't want to have another picture of me on YouTube, but we are married to him. Everything we do around that position, around this team, around this organization, the Tampa Bay area, when we clean the street on MacDill, it's going to be around Freeman. It's just what it's got to be.
"He'll get more reps, which is guaranteed. He'll prepare as the No. 2. He'll get a chance to learn as the No. 2. He'll have a chance to be in the meeting rooms as a No. 2. Now it's got to be fast-forward training. I've got all the confidence in my coaching staff that we can get that done."
The Bucs never intended for Freeman to compete for the starting job this season, but knowing he's a heartbeat away from playing should provide urgency in his preparation.
Freeman struggled in the preseason. He completed 44.8 percent of his passes, with one touchdown and three interceptions, playing mostly against reserves.
Morris was asked why he believes Freeman would be better in the regular season.
"When you're preparing for an opponent, you've got certain plays in your game plan each week for everybody," Morris said. "You're better prepared, rather than just going and playing good-on-good Football. "
Two join the roster
The Bucs entered Sunday with two available spots on the 53-man roster and claimed two players off waivers: Giants defensive end Maurice Evans and Falcons cornerback William Middleton.
The 6-foot-2, 264-pound Evans is an undrafted free agent from Penn State. After a sophomore season with 121/2 sacks, 211/2 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles, he was suspended for three games in 2008 after being charged with possession of marijuana.
Last season Evans played behind Aaron Maybin, taken 11th overall by the Bills, and had three sacks and 41/2 tackles for loss .
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound Middleton was a fifth-round pick from Furman by the Falcons in 2009.
Also, seven players were signed to the practice squad: cornerback Kyle Arrington, receiver Patrick Carter, defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan, running back Kareem Huggins, tackle James Lee, tight end Ryan Purvis and receiver Mario Urrutia. Tampa Bay still has one practice team spot available.
Morris: Team needed to see Bryant kick
Morris called releasing kicker Matt Bryant a tough decision but said the club didn't have much of a choice. Bryant set a team record with 131 points last year but was unable to play in the preseason due to a hamstring strain.
"We didn't get the competition that we liked at kicker," Morris said. "When you don't kick, it's tough to make a Football team. The comfort level with Mike Nugent should be where it needs to be. He played well for the most part. He did miss a couple of kicks that we wanted him to make, but they all do. I like his mental toughness and how he finished off the preseason."