The Buccaneers have signed rookie LB Mason Foster and TE Daniel Hardy to four-year deals. Bucs G.M. Mark Dominik's comments about Foster and his upcoming role on the team clearly put free agent Barrett Ruud's future in Tampa Bay in doubt.
According to Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, the team has signed third-round draft pick Mason Foster, a linebacker from Washington, and seventh-round pick Daniel Hardy, a tight end from Idaho, to a pair of four-year deals. Terms were not disclosed.
Dominik heaped heavy praise on Foster, who will play middle linebacker for the Bucs, indicating that he was going to play a big role in Tampa Bay’s defense for years to come. Dominik was non-committal about the return of unrestricted free agent middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, and the fact that the team made sure Foster was the first draft pick signed is a strong indication that Ruud’s days in Tampa Bay could be over.
“I am excited to announce that I just got off the phone with Mason Foster’s agent and he has just agreed to a four-year contract with our [third-round] draft pick,” Dominik said. “We just need to get his signature on the contract, but that’s a big element because he’s a big part of our future plans here. So getting him under contract and letting him be in the building tonight already and starting to learn is the most important thing we can do.”
Ruud, who has been Tampa Bay's leading tackler for the past few years, has his share of critics who claim that he is not the most physical linebacker, has trouble shedding blocks and has played a role in the Bucs ranking 32nd and 27th against the run over the past two seasons, respectively. When Dominik was pressed to comment on Ruud's future with the Buccaneers he was non-committal and also mentioned the development of second-year middle linebacker Tyrone McKenzie in Monday’s afternoon press conference instead of talking about Ruud.
"I have high expectations for Mason Foster and what he can bring to this football team," Dominik said. "I also thing that Tyrone McKenzie learned a lot at the Mike linebacker position. We just signed a guy that I considered in the seventh round, Derrell Smith, a middle linebacker from Syracuse, that I thought was a really talented college football player. We have a lot of young guys that certainly have to step into big shoes at a real mental position, but I have a lot of confidence in who Mason Foster is and his mental make-up to do so."
Tampa Bay's general manager was asked to characterize the negotiations with Ruud, who has been the starter at middle linebacker since the 2007 season and instead said, "I would say that an important element that I just talked about for us long term was that we got Mason Foster signed to a four-year contract. Obviously, I think that it's important that the Mike linebacker that we drafted is here on this football team and will try to learn this system as fast as possible. Any kind of discussion with Barrett and his agent I would leave out of it right now.
"I knew that Barrett had played six years in Tampa and he would be an unrestricted free agent regardless of whether free agency was four years or six years. At that point, you have to start preparing in case you don't have Barrett Ruud. The draft came and fell to us in a way that we liked Mason Foster where we got him. We are happy to have him on this football team. Those are the two components that came together and that's why we made sure that Mason Foster was the first to get signed on the first available day to sign draft picks and get him in the building and get him prepared with the coaching staff."
Ruud, who has been seeking a contract extension for the past two years, was an offseason holdout in 2009, missing all of the OTAs. He also was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension after left tackle Donald Penn received one last year after holding out the entire offseason.
Outside of Ruud, the Buccaneers have been on the phone with the agents of Tampa Bay's own free agents, including right guard Davin Joseph, who is the team's priority to re-sign.
“It’s been busy, I’ve been on the phone non-stop,” Dominik said.
Dominik also stated that the team signed undrafted free agents Derrell Smith (6-0, 244), a middle linebacker from Syracuse, and Raymond Webber, a rangy, big-play wide receiver from Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The team will sign between 15-20 undrafted free agents to fill out its 90-man roster for training camp and is expected to release the complete list on Wednesday.
Notre Dame running back Armando Allen, Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu, Texas A&M center Matt Allen, Tennessee linebacker Nick Reviez, LSU kicker Josh Jasper and Boise State quarterback Mike Coughlin are rumored to be among other possible undrafted free agents signed by the Buccaneers.
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