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What The Buccaneers Must Do If The Lockout Is Lifted Tomorrow

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Judge Susan Nelson is expected to make a ruling in the lockout dispute tomorrow, and she's likely to rule in favor of the players. This means that the doors of team facilities could open immediately, and more intriguingly free agency would start immediately. The NFL will no doubt appeal this decision, but the lockout could still be lifted while the appeal goes before the courts.

If this does happen the NFL will likely operate under the 2010 rules, which means restricted free agent tenders for everyone, including a lot of Buccaneers that are now expected to be unrestricted free agents. Quincy Black, Jeremy Trueblood, Stylez G. White, Adam Hayward and Davin Joseph are among the players who will remain property of the Buccaneers despite not getting a new contract extension. In fact, the only significant player who will absolutely be an unrestricted free agent is Barrett Ruud.

So what happens then? Well, the Bucs will have plenty of players under contract for 2011 because of the restricted free agency tender. They won't have to go out and be active in free agency and they would be just fine doing nothing until the draft. They would miss out on premium free agents, of course, but that's nothing new for the Bucs and seems to be part of their modus operandi. 

But that doesn't mean the Bucs will sit still if the lockout is lifted. In fact, what they probably should do is try to trade a couple of their restricted free agents for draft picks. They no doubt know which players they would like to keep and which players they will not keep under any circumstances. If they're smart they will trade those players who they don't see as part of their long-term plans. Players like Quincy Black and, yes, Aqib Talib will get the Bucs some high draft picks in return. They'd better take advantage while they can.