LB Barrett Ruud, the leading tackler in University of Nebraska history, has the range and instincts to excel in Tampa Bay's defense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are moving down the list and up the draft chart when it comes to signing their rookies before training camp.
After inking sixth-rounder Anthony Bryant last Wednesday and fourth-rounder Dan Buenning the next day, the Bucs finalized a contract with second-rounder Barrett Ruud on Wednesday. As is team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Ruud was the 36th player selected overall in April's NFL draft, going four picks into the fourth round. A 6-0, 241-pound linebacker with outstanding range and natural instincts, he is seen as a perfect fit in the Buccaneers' defensive scheme.
A day before Buccaneer players are due to report to training camp, contracts for one-fourth of the 2005 draft class are in the books. That still leaves nine players to sign before Thursday's report date, but this process often lasts into the 11th hour. Typically, there is little danger of a holdout beyond the first-round picks.
And even that hasn't been much of a problem for the Buccaneers over the last decade. Last year, first-rounder Michael Clayton signed his deal a week before the beginning of training camp, and the Bucs haven't had an extended rookie holdout since Trent Dilfer in 1994.
With Ruud, Buenning and Bryant done, the Bucs still need to strike deals with first-round running back Carnell Williams, third-rounders tight end Alex Smith and tackle Chris Colmer, fifth-rounders safety Donte Nicholson and wide receiver Larry Brackins and a quartet of seventh rounders in fullback Rick Razzano, wide receiver Paris Warren, safety Hamza Abdullah and wide receiver J.R. Russell.
Ruud is the leading tackler in Nebraska's storied football history, racking up 432 tackles over his four seasons as a Cornhusker. A first-team All-Big Ten choice and third-team All-America selection as a senior, he was also an Academic all-conference pick in each of his three seasons as a starter. Last season, he led the team with 143 tackles, six fewer than his team record of 149 in 2003, and added three sacks and three passes defensed.
Ruud played middle linebacker at Nebraska and, though he has the athleticism to play one of the outside spots in the Bucs' scheme, is expected to concentrate in the middle in his first training camp. Ruud may contribute mostly on special teams in the early going, but the Bucs believe he could be a factor sooner rather than later. Tampa Bay has one of the most accomplished linebacking corps in the league, with two Pro Bowlers in the starting lineup (Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles), but a possible starting trio of Brooks, Quarles and Jeff Gooch has an average age of 32 years old.