Tom Jones' two cents
The great Ronde Barber has retired and likely will head off to a television booth near you. Someday, he will be in the Bucs' Ring of Honor. But the big question is: Will he ultimately end up giving an induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton? Right now, he's probably a borderline case, but here are a few arguments for why Barber should have a bust in Canton.
A club of one
With 28 sacks and 47 interceptions (not counting the postseason), Barber is a member of the exclusive 25/40 club, meaning at least 25 sacks and 40 picks. Just how exclusive is that club? Barber is the only member.
Now there are a lot of "tricked-up'' stats in sports. For example, B.J. Upton is one of only eight players in history to reach 100 home runs and 200 steals before his 28th birthday, but that hardly means he is headed to Cooperstown.
However, Barber's numbers aren't tricked up. They carry a bit more weight because they show just how versatile he was. He was quick and agile enough to cover the best receivers and fast and strong enough to track and bring down quarterbacks.
Was he a beneficiary of the Bucs' Tampa 2 defense? Yes, but the Tampa 2 worked, in part, because it had a cornerback who could do the things Barber did.
He showed up every game
There's something to be said for showing up to work every day. Of course, there's more to being a Hall of Famer than just punching the clock.
Still, Barber was good enough and durable enough to become the first defensive back since the NFL-AFL 1970 merger to start each of his team's games for 12 consecutive seasons. His 199 consecutive starts at cornerback are the most in NFL history, and he tacked on an impressive season at safety in 2012.
He was elected to five Pro Bowls — the same as Hall of Fame corners Herb Adderley and Mel Blount. He also was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a member of the 2000 All-Decade Team.
He has a signature play
You don't have to have a signature play to make the Hall of Fame, but it helps. Franco Harris has the Immaculate Reception. Marcus Allen has his Super Bowl run.
And Barber has the 92-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Eagles to seal the NFC Championship at the end of the 2002 season. That not only exorcised the Bucs' demons in Philadelphia, but led to the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
That play epitomized Barber's big-play capabilities.
Barber was one of the key pieces of one of the best defenses in NFL history. Only competition from teammates could keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Warren Sapp is going in this summer. Derrick Brooks will assuredly go in, perhaps as early as 2014. John Lynch was a semifinalist last year, and coach Tony Dungy is eligible starting in 2014.
After Sapp and Brooks, will the Hall be willing to induct another member of a team (and a defense) that won only one Super Bowl?
If you look just at the numbers, the answer will be yes.
It will someday put Ronde Barber into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He deserves it.