Another year, another challenger for Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber.
Entering his 16th season, Barber will compete for his starting right cornerback spot he has held since '98, most likely with Lions free agent Eric Wright, coach Greg Schiano said Monday at the NFL owners meetings.
Despite turning 37 next month, Barber was the Bucs' most consistent performer on defense last season, recording 78 tackles, three interceptions and a sack.
Schiano said he was excited last week to learn Barber would be back.
"I think it's great,'' Schiano said Monday. "Everybody talks about the experience and all that stuff. That's all very important. So is his ability to make plays. So all of that adds up to being a great thing for our defense.''
But Schiano made it clear that Barber will be competing for his starting job. The Bucs signed Wright, 26, to a five-year, $37.5-million contract as an unrestricted free agent with $15.5-million guaranteed. Starting left cornerback Aqib Talib has another year remaining on his contract but is scheduled to stand trial April 16 in Texas for assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted, Talib would likely face a suspension from the NFL.
In the end, Barber got what he wanted -- a chance to compete as a starter.
"I see it like every other position,'' Schiano said. "That's the great thing about competition. Let it play out the way it does through performance. The best man wins. That's the way I like it.''