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Shelton Quarles vs. Barrett Ruud

Tampa Bay’s defense finished the 2005 season ranked No. 1 overall and sixth against the run, and Quarles played a big role in accomplishing both of those feats.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Quarles arguably had the best year of his career in 2005, finishing the season with a team-high 196 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and four passes defensed.

Despite having a Pro Bowl-caliber season and beating out nine-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks as Tampa Bay’s leading tackler, the Bucs approached Quarles during the offseason about restructuring his deal. He agreed to rework his contract, accepting a base salary of just $1.3 million, which helped the Bucs create some much-needed salary cap room.

Quarles, who turns 35 in September, didn’t show any signs of slowing down last season, but the Bucs have his successor waiting in the wings.

Last year, Tampa Bay invested a second-round draft pick on Nebraska LB Barrett Ruud. Although he didn’t see much action on defense (notched seven tackles), Ruud (6-0, 241) made a splash on special teams by recording 18 tackles, which ranked fourth on the team.

Although Quarles likely will leave training camp and preseason as the starting middle linebacker, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and linebackers coach Joe Barry would like to work Ruud into the rotation more this season in an effort to help get him prepared for the day he replaces Quarles, which could come as soon as the 2007 season, which is scheduled to be Quarles’ last year under contract with the Bucs.

Advantage: Shelton Quarles



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