Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If Bucs sign safety, does Barber have a future here?

TAMPA

This is all about saving face. This is all about moving on and not wanting to make it look like they kicked an iconic player to the curb.

Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano met with Ronde Barber last Thursday and told him they would like to have him return for a 17th season. Of course they would.

"He asked us for some time to make his decision and we certainly respect that," Dominik said in a release by the team Sunday.

What the Bucs didn't announce but made clear, those close to the 37-year-old Barber say, is that they plan to sign a safety in free agency. That's why Barber can take his time. If he were a big part of their plan on defense, wouldn't they need to know whether Barber was in or out for 2013 by Tuesday at the latest?

"I've got time, so I'm going to take my time," Barber said Friday.

Barber was asked about the meeting and described it as "transformational." As in geometry. Transformation is about movement, which always brings about a form of change.

At the same meeting a year ago, Barber was told the Bucs planned to sign a cornerback in free agency. With Aqib Talib still on the roster, the signing of Lions free agent Eric Wright to a five-year, $37.5 million contract meant Barber would have to transform again, this time to safety.

He did a good job, particularly learning a new position while working with rookie safety Mark Barron. But even though he had four interceptions, his coverage skills have declined. If the Bucs are committed to playing as much single safety, man free coverage as they did last season, resulting in the league's worst pass defense, they need a safety that can cover a lot of grass and take all the right angles.

Maybe that is 49ers free agent Dashon Goldson, 28, who has nine interceptions in the past two seasons. Maybe they will draft Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro 13th overall, as forecast in a mock draft by ESPN's Todd McShay.

What role would that leave for Barber? Playing in the slot on nickel passing downs.

Barber has options. He scheduled a trip to California just before his meeting with the Bucs Thursday to meet with television executives bent on hiring him.

The Bucs have always had trouble saying goodbye to their best players. Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp — none left on their own terms. Barber's resume is Hall of Fame worthy. He's the last link to the Super Bowl XXXVII team. The Bucs are fairly confident Barber will not play for another team. Either way, it's clear they're moving on.

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