If he returns to Bucs, Ronde Barber would still have big role
The Bucs have made it clear to Ronde Barber and everyone else that they’re going to proceed with rebuilding their secondary regardless of the safety's decision to retire or continue playing for a 17th season.
In that regard, what ultimately happens with one of our region’s most beloved athletes might seem secondary as it relates to the Bucs’ offseason plans. After all, the Bucs have already replaced Barber, signing All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, the presumptive starting free safety.
But, the reality is, in a league where rosters are limited to 53 players, whether Barber elects to return is actually a big deal.
It’s safe to assume he’ll play an important role in the slot or near the line of scrimmage in passing situations. And in today’s NFL, that’s about half the defensive snaps. That’s not a bit role, but quite an important one.
If Barber returns – and the Bucs told him the door is open, though he’ll have to accept a reduced role – it has a trickle-down effect. With Barber in the fold, the Bucs would have less of a need for depth at cornerback, because he could play the slot role. While the Bucs still are very likely to acquire two starting-caliber cornerbacks in free agency and the draft, having Barber on passing downs could make nickel back less of a priority.
Having Barber on the roster also gives the Bucs good depth at safety in the event Goldson or Mark Barron suffered an injury.
If Barber decides to retire – and people close to him think he’s leaning toward playing – the aforementioned issues will need to be addressed with other players. That’s something the Bucs will have to take into account now, during free agency, and in the draft next month.
Coach Greg Schiano said last week he wasn’t rushing Barber into a decision, but he did say he’d reach out to him in the near future. It’s unclear whether they’ve talked yet, but considering the extensive fallout from Barber’s pending decision, it’s obvious why Schiano wants to gauge Barber’s interest level:
Because if Barber returns, he’ll still be very much an important part of the Bucs’ roster, even at 38-years old.