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Bucs reach agreement on one-year deal with Peyton Barber

Tampa Bay’s leading rusher would’ve been a restricted free agent.

TAMPA — Peyton Barber won the starting tailback job last season with the Bucs and was the club’s leading rusher.

That earned him the admiration of new coach Bruce Arians, who was impressed with the former Auburn running back on tape.

On Wednesday, Barber agreed to a one-year deal and will avoid being a restricted free agent.

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The Bucs have placed the original tender on Barber temporarily, but that will protect his rights until he officially signs the new deal.

“I love him,'' Arians said of Barber. "When you watch him on tape, you don’t see his 230 (pounds), you would think he’s a 205-pound running back because he’s got great feet. Not every back’s going to be a home-run hitter, but if he gets those 10-15-yard runs, breaking tackles, power runner, punishing runner, that’s kind of how I like to start. When we’re building something, that’s the kind I like to build around.”

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bucs in 2016, Barber served as a back up to Doug Martin his first two seasons and played special teams.

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But last season, he won the starting job over struggling rookie Ronald Jones and rushed for a career-high 871 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 92 yards and a score.

The Bucs still believe they can get Jones untracked in 2019. But having Barber do the heavy work between the tackles is a good place for them to start improving a running game that only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season.