Just days after Bucs general manager Mark Dominik indicated the team may not re-sign Barrett Ruud, the middle linebacker agrees to terms with Tennessee on a one-year deal. Tampa Bay will likely have Tyrone McKenzie or rookie Mason Foster start at MLB in 2011.
The Barrett Ruud era in Tampa Bay is officially over after the former Bucs middle linebacker agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Tennessee. Terms were not disclosed, but the free agent market apparently bottomed out for the seventh-year pro after general manager Mark Dominik strongly indicated before training camp that the team was prepared to move in another direction. Dominik heaped praise on Mason Foster, the team's third-round pick in 2011, who was the first member of this year's Tampa Bay draft class to sign a contract.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris has also cited third-year pro Tyrone McKenzie as a candidate to start. McKenzie, a former University of South Florida product who was a third-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2009, has been the starting middle linebacker since Bucs training camp began on Friday. McKenzie joined the Bucs last year at midseason after leaving New England and landing on Tampa Bay's practice squad. A late-season injury to linebacker Quincy Black prompted the team to sign McKenzie to the active roster where he recorded five special teams tackles and three tackles on defense over the last three games of the season.
Morris called both McKenzie and Foster "thumpers" during Friday's press conference, and Ruud had his share of critics in the media and among the fans who criticized him for not being physical enough. The Bucs run defense has suffered over the past two seasons, ranking 32nd in the NFL in 2009 and 27th in the league last year. Some of the blame has been placed on Ruud, and one member of the Bucs' front office told PewterReport.com that the organization had him ranked 19th out of the league's starting middle linebackers. By accepting only a modest one-year deal two days into free agency, it appears that view is also held by other teams around the NFL.
Ruud was a second-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2005 out of Nebraska. After spending a few seasons behind Shelton Quarles, the 6-foot-2, 241-pound Ruud earned the starting position in 2007 and has started in all but one game since that time.
In 2009, Ruud had his best season as a pro. He had a career-high 205 tackles that season, which ranks second all-time in Bucs history behind Hardy Nickerson (214). He also had eight passes defensed, one interception, one forced fumble that year.
In 2010, Ruud seemed to regress a bit. He had trouble shedding blocks and making stop near the line of scrimmage and as a result finished with just 161 tackles, 44 shy of his 2009 total. However, he did make more splash plays than the previous season and finished with four passes defensed, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception.
Ruud, 28, owns the Bucs record for most tackles in a three-year span with 552 from 2007-2009, a list that is dominated by former linebacker and legend Derrick Brooks. In his six years with Tampa Bay, Ruud has amassed 787 tackles, five sacks, six forced fumbles, six interceptions, and 21 passes defensed.– Charlie Campbell and Wolf Heard contributed to this report
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.