Barrett Ruud has been a polarizing figure these past two season. Some say he lacks physicality, won't take on blocks and flat-out can't play. Others point to his tackle numbers and the poor play around him and claim he's a star. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in between. Ruud isn't the most physical tackler and has trouble shedding blocks, but he's also a very consistent player who always executes his assignments and gets the defense in position to succeed. But Barrett Ruud's days as a Buccaneer may be numbered. He's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and the Buccaneers have made a number of moves over the past year that signal they may not want him back.
Most notably, the Bucs drafted Mason Foster in the third round. Foster is a very versatile linebacker, but his best fit may be at middle linebacker. He's also a much more physical and aggressive player than Barrett Ruud, and the Bucs have made some comments about getting bigger and more physical recently. If Barrett Ruud were to walk, Mason Foster could step in immediately. And while Ruud seemed to be a quiet leader if he ever was one, Foster will be a vocal, passionate player on the field who will bring some oomph to the Bucs defense.
The same could be said of third-year player Tyrone McKenzie. This former USF linebacker was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots in 2009, but a knee injury prevented him from getting on the field. He was placed on the team's practice squad in 2010, after the Patriots added Brandon Spikes through the draft to play the same position. The Buccaneers quickly picked him up, and he saw the field a couple of times in 3-4 sets at the end of the year. The Bucs are supposedly high on McKenzie, and he's known as a hard worker and student of the game. Before Foster was drafted I wouldn't have been surprised to see the Bucs roll with McKenzie as the starting middle linebacker.
All in all, the Bucs have two talented and hard-working players who could step in and take over Ruud's responsibilities immediately. No matter how much the Bucs may value Ruud's intelligence on the field, there's little reason for them to pay big money to a player they can immediately replace. So it certainly looks like Ruud will be leaving Tampa sooner rather than later.