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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Clarifying the matter of Barrett Ruud and the franchise tag



Earlier this week, during a radio interview on ESPN Tampa 1040 AM, the hosts and I touched on the topic of using the franchise tag on linebacker Barrett Ruud and whether it’s something the Bucs would consider doing this year (A podcast of the interview is posted here, about halfway down the page. The Ruud conversation is in the second of two clips).

This calls for some clarification.

With the collective bargaining agreement still not complete and the NFL lockout still in effect, it’s difficult to speak with certainty about many NFL topics right now. The franchise tag is one such subject.

Here’s the deal: As avid NFL fans probably know, the deadline for using the franchise-tag designation is in February. That’s long come and gone. Some teams used it (the Colts tagged QB Peyton Manning at about $23 million), but others didn’t because of the uncertainty ahead.

Here’s the caveat and why the possibility of using the franchise tag can’t completely be dismissed. Reports are that some owners during negotiations have expressed a desire to use the tag when the lockout ends and the long-awaited free agency period opens. Discussions are still ongoing. This might be a tough sell to the players, but maybe the owners get their way.

So, the truth of the matter is we can’t say just yet whether this option is going to be available. But that doesn’t prevent us from discussing whether it’s a prudent move if and when it becomes an alternative to signing Ruud to a long-term contract.

When it comes to Ruud, the Bucs’ leading tackler the past four seasons, it remains to be seen whether the Bucs feel they currently have a viable replacement. If they feel the answer is no but aren’t able to come to terms on a long-term contract, that’s where the franchise tag could become useful.

And there’s precedent for this. The Bucs used the franchise tag two years ago on receiver Antonio Bryant, who earned $9.88 million in 2009 after the sides couldn't agree on a long-term deal.

The price tag for Ruud would approach $10 million, but word is the new CBA will include a much higher salary floor. If that mandate makes it into the final version of the CBA, the Bucs will have to spend well over $100 million in salary after spending roughly $80 million in uncapped 2010.

The franchise tag pretty much takes a player off the market, something that’s sure to leave the 28-year-old Ruud ticked off after waiting this long to reach free agency. But $10 million is $10 million, so maybe he’d get over it.

Anyhow, the compensation for signing a franchise player has historically been two first-round draft picks. Such deals almost never happen. So, if the opportunity presents itself and the Bucs avail themselves of it, Ruud would almost certainly be in pewter and red this fall.

It’s just another one of the many, many complex issues to be dealt with once this lockout ends.

[Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 2:16pm]


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