MOBILE, Ala. — If there are hard feelings between the Bucs and LB Barrett Ruud, who could become an unrestricted free agent in March, it doesn't appear they will be an impediment to his potential return.
GM Mark Dominik expressed a desire Wednesday to have dialogue with Ruud and his agents before free agency starts.
Later, in text messages, Ruud, 27, reaffirmed that under the right circumstances, he's open to returning.
That's where things get murky. The Bucs seem uncertain of Ruud's demands, and Ruud likely isn't clear about his market value. The mutual desire to work out a deal guarantees nothing.
"Just because they say they want to be back or you say you want to sign them doesn't mean that that's how it's going to work out," Dominik said during Senior Bowl workouts.
"We haven't gotten into those discussions yet."
The sides will have to overcome past differences. Ruud has been seeking a long-term extension for two years. When he was made an offer of an undisclosed value more than a year ago, his camp deemed it unworthy of discussing.
The sixth-year linebacker is a key on defense, particularly because of his many presnap assignments that include calling the defense and making adjustments.
"I thought Barrett had another good season," Dominik said. "He led our team in tackles again. And now we're just kind of sitting back."
No other key potential free agents, including CB Ronde Barber, G Davin Joseph and LB Quincy Black, have had substantive conversations with the Bucs. But Dominik said he intends to have dialogue with them soon.
SEARCH PARTY: The Senior Bowl typically doubles as a job fair, and the Bucs are conducting interviews for their vacant defensive line coaching position. They believe a decision could be made by next week.
"I think with Coach (Raheem Morris), he's looking for a guy who is a good thinker who has a good rush plan and knows how to attack teams," Dominik said. "Not just a guy who is going to (run) our system, but he's going to want to make our system better with what he can bring from a knowledge standpoint and a teaching standpoint."
The teaching part is critical. The Bucs have two 2010 rookie tackles returning, and some analysts predict they will draft an end in the first round this year. The new coach will be charged with shaping key building blocks.
"It's an important hire," Dominik said. "That's why it's taking longer than maybe people want it to take."