After being the worst team in the NFL last season when it came to stopping the pass, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invested heavily in improving their secondary, leaving Ronde Barber without a lot of room and potential playing time, pushing him closer towards a departure or possible retirement.
Barber, 38, has been the NFL’s man of steel over the last decade and more, playing in 240 consecutive games for the Bucs since 1998. While his Pro Bowl and All-Pro days are long gone, he was still quite useful last season as the free safety, although it didn’t help the Bucs post impressive numbers when it came to defending the pass.
The Buccaneers added a lot of players to make their secondary look like something that can potentially give their explosive offense a bit of breathing room and ease the pressure of Josh Freeman to score on every down. Dashon Goldson was brought over from the San Francisco 49ers, as was Darrelle Revis via trade from the New York Jets. In the draft, they took Johnathan Banks from Mississippi State, a cornerback, as their top pick (second round, 43rd overall). This doesn’t leave Barber with a lot of positions to play.
One option for Barber is being used in a dime or nickel package, although the Bucs rarely use so many defensive backs in plays, unless it’s a third and long situation. There’s also the option of being a backup safety after doing quite well in that position last season, but no one is planning the Super Bowl champion from over a decade ago to be a starter.
Barber, who might also not be paid very much despite his long and successful connection with the team and the city, might not want such a reduced role. There comes a time for every veteran when he’s no longer wanted, or not being felt too welcome to stick around, even as a piece of furniture that’s hardly being used. Maybe, after 16 NFL seasons with the same team, Barber will find himself getting a chance somewhere else, but most chances are that if he declines serving in a minor role for the team, he’ll announce his retirement.