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Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik won't comment on middle linebacker Barrett Ruud's decision to not participate in organized team activities.
Ruud had a consistent presence in previous OTAs, but he's exercising his right to skip the voluntary workouts and work out on his own due to his contract, which has one year remaining on it.
Dominik isn't talking, and neither is Ethan Locke, who serves as Ruud's agent. Ruud has also done a good job of dodging the media to avoid becoming a distraction to the team, which is in its first year under new head coach Raheem Morris and in the process of implementing a new defensive scheme under Jim Bates.
We don't know where contract talks stand between Dominik and Locke right now, but what we do know is the Bucs have been interested in extending Ruud's contract since last year.
Former Bucs general manager Bruce Allen and senior assistant Kevin Demoff reached out to Ruud and Locke regarding a contract extension during the 2008 regular season.
At that time, Ruud had two years remaining on his deal and was scheduled to earn base salaries of $500,000 and $1.6 million in 2008 and '09, respectively.
Unless something drastically changes between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association regarding the implementation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Ruud, who is entering the final year of his contract, will not be allowed to become an unrestricted free agent. Instead, he would become a restricted free agent and play for a league-mandated tender, which is approximately $3 million in 2010.
The Bucs felt Ruud would be interested in doing a long-term deal last year since he was staring at the possibility of earning a total of just $5 million over a three-year period, none of which would be guaranteed.
Despite dialogue being established by both parties, talks aimed at extending Ruud's contract never really went anywhere as neither side conveyed a sense of urgency.
Ruud, 26, plays middle linebacker, which some in the league view as an undervalued position. We're not sure what the Bucs were offering Ruud, but we believe it was less than what Seattle Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu received in 2008.
Last year, Tatupu, who was selected less than 10 spots behind Ruud in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, inked a six-year, $42 million contract extension with two years remaining on his deal with the Seahawks in March.
That contract likely resembles the deal Ruud and Locke are looking for from the Bucs, but Tampa Bay, which is about $37 million under the salary cap, might not be willing to reward Ruud with such a lucrative deal.
Ruud, 26, has led the Bucs in tackles for two straight seasons. He notched a career-high 178 takedowns in 2008, and has three career sacks and four interceptions.
However, the one thing that separates Tatupu and Ruud right now is Pro Bowls. Tatupu has been voted an All-Pro and voted to three Pro Bowls while Ruud has been voted to none – not even as an alternate, which is a bit of a surprise.
Take that for what it's worth since the Pro Bowl voting system was never accused of being fair or flawless, but that information certainly is relevant to the Bucs when attempting to determine whether Ruud is a franchise-caliber player and/or craft a contract extension that they feel is fair to both the player and club.
While the 6-foot-2, 241-pound Ruud has earned a new contract, he might not be as underpaid as some would initially believe. Tatupu's contract extension reportedly included $18 million in guaranteed money, but he is scheduled to earn base salaries of just $1.35 million and $1.85 million in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The final five years of Tatupu's contract call for him to earn base salaries that average about $4.5 million per year, though, which is substantially more than Ruud is earning now.
While extending Ruud's contract sounds good in theory, both sides are attempting to do something unique in nature, which is agree on a contract extension for a player whose rights will be owned by the team until the 2011 offseason unless there is a new CBA put in place. Not many teams have been willing to do this, including the Bucs.
From Ruud's perspective, he would like a new deal, but neither he nor Locke is likely willing to take a deep discount right now because of the prospects of entering restricted free agency next year. If the extension is as long as Tatupu's, this could be the first and last long-term, lucrative contract Ruud signs in the NFL, so he and Locke want to make it count.
The good news for Ruud is Dominik has shown a willingness to do a contract extension if the deal is right for the team. In April, Tampa Bay signed tight end Kellen Winslow to a six-year, $36 million contract even though he had two years remaining on his deal.
Winslow's contract reportedly included $20 million in guaranteed money, but the Pro Bowl tight end didn't receive a signing bonus or a roster bonus. That is what it took to get Winslow's deal done, but the Bucs and Locke might have to be even more creative to get Ruud signed to a contract extension if they hope to get it done anytime soon.
In the meantime, it appears Ruud likely will miss Tampa Bay's next six voluntary organized team activities, but don't expect him to skip the team's mandatory mini-camp, which is scheduled for June 16-18. If he does, that could be the precursor for a training camp holdout.
Note: There will not be another Flynn's Focus until the weekend of June 12 as I am getting a vacation in while I can. When I return from vacation the Bucs will only be a month and a half away from reporting to training camp. Wow, talk about a quick offseason. Football will be here before you know it.