Just a few months ago, it was almost certain that Buccaneer’s middle linebacker, Barrett Ruud, had finished his last season as a Buccaneer. He was due to hit free agency after completing six seasons with the Bucs. Before the 2011 NFL Draft, he may have been quite the find for a team needing a starter at the MLB position. Now that the draft has passed and free agency still is on hold due to the lockout, his value has plummeted. Even more so because all of his experience came from playing within the Tampa 2 defensive scheme, except for the brief change of schemes when Defensive Coordinator, Jim Bates, used the two gap 4-3 defense. Unfortunately for Ruud, there aren’t many teams in the NFL that use the Tampa 2, making him less of a prize to other teams. However, there is a chance he could return for a 7th season.
Ruud was drafted 35th overall in the 2005 draft. In 2006, he started 5 games after both Shelton Quarles and Ryan Nece were injured. The following season, he became a starter for the Bucs. Ever since becoming a fulltime starter in ‘07, he’s led the Bucs every year in tackles. In 2009, he was the first linebacker in Bucs history to surpass the 200 tackle mark set by Hardy Nickerson in ‘93. This past season, he started all 16 games and had 161 stops, 6 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 3 QB pressures, 1 interception, 4 passes broken up, and 2 forced fumbles. Ruud has proven to be a reliable and intelligent leader and has been responsible for making last second defensive calls and audibles for the last few seasons. He has performed exceptionally while dealing with all the adjustments that have occurred around him, including numerous changes in players and personnel and having three different linebacker coaches. His last season was far from spectacular, but with the improvements made to the defensive line, I believe he could play as good as he did while in his prime.
The Buccaneers want a force in the middle that can be as dependable as Ruud in defensive audibles, but also be a run stopping linebacker. This is made evident by the strategic draft pick of Mason Foster and the signing of Tyrone McKenzie. Ruud may have led the team in tackles for the last several seasons, but has always been viewed as a weaker, dragging type of tackler. The Bucs want the type of presence that Hardy Nickerson and Derrick Brooks offered. Unfortunately, Ruud is a better leader than a fierce tackler. If the Bucs offer Ruud a contract, most likely it will be for one year which doesn’t offer what he deserves. I would like to see Ruud return for another season, specifically because his leadership skills are invaluable. He could be a great teacher for his successor. However, it seems that Tyrone McKenzie is really making an impression on the Bucs coaching staff and may be asked to replace Ruud in the 2011 season. All will be known if and when the lockout is lifted.