It was recently suggested that the Buccaneers will consider using the franchise tag on MLB Barrett Ruud, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. It's not clear whether teams will get another chance to use the tag, however, as teams that wanted to use the tag this year already did so before the lockout began. The deadline to use the tag under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expired in March, was Feb. 24.
We hear it's far more likely that the Bucs will try to work out a multiyear deal with Ruud and spread the guaranteed money they would spend on him in one year under the tag — which is projected to be about $10 million for linebackers — over multiple seasons. Tag amounts are the average of the five highest-paid players at each position. Assuming the tag option is not made available to Tampa Bay, it seems unlikely Ruud would agree to another one-year deal.
Head coach Raheem Morris has made it clear he wants Ruud to be re-signed, and with the lockout lingering, it seems less likely that Tampa Bay will turn the starting MLB job over to third-round pick Mason Foster. He would have little time to prepare for the role in a condensed offseason, and doing what it takes to keep Ruud, who is trusted and knows the defense, might not look like such a bad option for the Bucs.
The Bucs are expected to have plenty of space below the salary cap and it was reported by ESPN that the owners are expected to include a stipulation in the new CBA that says teams must spend 90-93 percent of the cap. GM Mark Dominik didn't grant Ruud's request for a long-term deal last offseason, but Ruud was a restricted free agent at the time and Tampa Bay knew it could keep him for another season at a good price before he would hit the open market.
Of course, Ruud will get the opportunity to explore options with other teams and there could be several interested clubs. He has been productive, making more than 100 tackles in each of the past four seasons, and durable — he has started all but one game since the start of the 2007 season.
It would make a lot of sense for the Bucs to try hard to keep him from leaving.
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