New system doesn't flatter Barber
It's a topic that is raised with increasing frequency: will Ronde Barber be an every down player in the new bump-and-run coverage system of defensive coordinator Jim Bates?
Barber, who turns 34 in April, is a five-time Pro Bowl player who excels in the slot on nickel passing downs.
With second-year cornerback Aqib Talib expected to start in 2009, the Bucs' ability to re-sign impending free agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon might impact Barber's role.
Even linebacker Derrick Brooks had to begin coming off the field during nickel passing situations the past two seasons. But coach Raheem Morris is not ready to show Barber the bench any time soon.
"Ronde only had four picks in the last eight games of the season to try to get this thing going,'' Morris said. "Ronde Barber is a player that's going to be able to tell you what he's able to do. He's a selfless player. So if he's not an every down player, he'll be the first one to let you know.''
"You do what the guy's strengths are. Bates is flexible enough to let Ronde do what his strengths are. His strengths might be playing off and doing the same things you would do from bump, just in a different way.''
But there's no doubt Bates' attack, bump coverage system will play right into Talib's wheelhouse.
"Obviously, Aqib brings something different as far as a bump, man-cover guy,'' Morris said. "He's long, he's athletic and he's an issue to deal with for receivers. We'll just go see. With that kind of talent and that kind of production -- you guys do lineups better than I do.''
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik will meet this afternoon with Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Buchanon. After putting the franchise tag on receiver Antonio Bryant, Buchanon becomes the next priority.
"Our free agents we like a lot and we think are all priorities,'' Morris said. "What Buchanon can do as a bump-man guy, as an off-man guy, as a skills set guy, he's very impressive so you'd like to get him back. Corners just cost a lot of money in free agency and it's going to come down to money. It's got to come down to Mark Dominik figuring it out.''