It's now official: Barrett Ruud is not coming back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the veteran has signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans according to Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt. Ruud has been a lightning rod for some Bucs fans, as his lack of physicality has rubbed them the wrong way. It appears that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have at least decided that he wasn't worth a long-term contract, or even a decent one-year deal. The Titans were looking for help at middle linebacker after letting veteran Stephen Tulloch walk in free agency. Tulloch was a stout run defender who lacked coverage skills, and the Titans signed a very good coverage linebacker in Barrett Ruud.
While free agency isn't closed yet, it appears that the Buccaneers will go with youth at the middle linebacker position. They picked up former third-round pick Tyrone McKenzie off the Patriots' practice squad last season, while drafting Mason Foster in the third round in this year's draft. The Bucs will let the two linebackers compete in camp for a starting spot, but neither player has much experience on the field.
Barrett Ruud was consistently praised for his intelligence and ability to call the defense as well as make adjustments to the defense on the field. It is extremely unlikely either McKenzie or Foster will be able to fully replace his skills in that regard at least in 2011, but the Buccaneers will continue to give youthful players a chance.