Today we got confirmation that Ruud's absence from OTAs was contract related. This shouldn't have come as any surprise, as there was rampant speculation that this was the case. The surprise came here:
But Ruud's attempt to speed things along hasn't brought much in the way of contract talks.
"No discussions," Ruud said. "There haven't been any."
Ruud fell just short of making the Pro Bowl last year, after leading the team (by a large margin) in tackles. He is easily the most proven player left on his side of the ball after this offseason's roster moves. The coaches have stated on more than one occasion that they intend for him to be the face of the defense.
And yet, for whatever reason, they have done nothing to get Barrett Ruud back onto the field. From a financial standpoint, the Buccaneer's apparent stance makes sense. Assuming they enter into an uncapped year next year, Ruud will be a restricted free agent, which will all but ensure his continued presence in Tampa. On the outside, you wouldn't think that Ruud would have any sort of leverage in this scenario.
That is, unless you happen to drive by one of the many billboards with Ruud plastered on them. Or if you drive by the stadium and see the giant banner with Ruud's likeness. When you look at the situation from a public relations standpoint, the Bucs' position borders on flabbergasting. If Ruud is to be a leader on this team, he needs to not only be present for all team activities, he also has to be happy.
"I'd like to be here a long time," Ruud said. "I'd like to be with the Buccaneers. I've really enjoyed the organization. I think it's a first-class organization. It's a great community and I like my teammates, so I'd like to be here for a long time. In that respect, yeah, I'm disappointed that it hasn't progressed."
So as it stands now, the Bucs are 0-2 on that front. The truly perplexing thing about the situation, though, is that it's not as though the Bucs don't have a whole mess of cap room left to play with. They just gave Kellen Winslow, someone who hasn't played a single down in Pewter and Red, a $36 million extension, even though he was still under contract for another 2 years. The Winslow extension made sense at the time, and still does, considering it was displeasure with his contract in Cleveland that got him to argue his way out of town. However, if you can't extend the same courtesy to the supposed leader of the new-look Bucs defense, what happens?
We might find out.
I, for one, hope a deal gets done sooner rather than later. Ruud belongs here. They need to do what it takes to make sure he stays as long as humanly possible.