What stood out yesterday wasn't necessarily Barrett Ruud's signing as the contract he signed: a one-year contract. We don't yet know the price of that deal, but it is striking that Ruud still has not signed a long-term deal, because signing Barrett Ruud to just such a deal may have been the ideal solution for the Bucs.
With no offseason to groom the two young replacements the Bucs have in the building, getting Ruud signed to a short-term deal to ease the transition made a lot of sense. Ruud was praised for his knowledge of the defense, his ability to get the defense into the right calls and his ability to be in the right place at the right time. Without an offseason it will be difficult if not impossible for third-year pro Tyrone McKenzie or rookie Mason Foster to replicate that experience.
But while to outside observers a short-term deal may have seemed the optimal solution, it also appeared unlikely to happen. Ruud had been clamoring for a long-term deal for several years now and seemed unlikely to settle for a short-term deal. This makes his signing of a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans even more remarkable, as the Bucs could easily have matched whatever deal the Titans gave Ruud.
The Bucs, after all, had more cap room to start free agency than any team in the league and have not been particularly active in free agency. They haven't been cheap, as the three of the four deals they handed out were expensive, long-term contracts, so money cannot have been the issue. Instead, it appears that the Bucs didn't agree that keeping Ruud on the roster for one more year was an ideal solution.
Apparently, the Bucs really did not want Ruud on their football team in 2011. They have moved on, and as they have done so often in the past two seasons, they will give young, inexperienced players a chance to show their worth. Sometimes this has worked out well: Josh Freeman certainly hasn't disappointed anyone, and no one can say that Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Legarrette Blount or Cody Grimm have been disappointments.
But this attitude has also hurt them in the past. Most infamously, Sabby Piscitelli was perhaps the most incompetent safety to ever start an NFL game, but other youthful players have disappointed as well. Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller certainly represented an improvement over Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan, but both struggled early last year. Kyle Moore was handed the starting left defensive end job, but has been a major disappointment. Arrelious Benn took seven games before making a real impact as a receiver. Some players are ready to play very early on, but others take a while to develop, and some never do.
Young players can do a lot when given the chance, and the Bucs are not afraid to hand out chances by the dozen. A good coaching staff which focuses on technique and keeping things simple on the field has helped the Bucs get rookies ready in the past. But at some point youth and inexperience will hurt them. Let's hope it doesn't hurt them beyond the breaking point this season.