Free agent DB Ronde Barber announced on Wednesday that he would not be returning for an 18th season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The handwriting was on the wall for Barber after the Buccaneers moved aggressively this offseason to repair their biggest flaw during the 2012 season, the secondary. After trading for CB Darrelle Revis, signing free agent S Dashon Goldson and drafting CB Johnthan Banks, Barber’s future with the Buccaneers seemed cloudy.
Tampa did not pressure Barber to make his decision on any timetable. Apparently no other team reached out to Barber with any interest of signing the record setting corner this offseason. It was always assumed that Barber would return to the Buccaneers for one more season or simply retire. He made his decision on Wednesday, he’ll be walking away from the game he so passionately loves.
Barber redefined the way corners play in the Tampa-2 defense and arguably filled that role better than anyone else. A third-round pick out of Virginia, Barber is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks. He appeared in 215 consecutive games for the Buccaneers, while appearing in 242 total games (the most in Buccaneers history). He will forever be remembered for the biggest play in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history, a 92-yard interception of Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb in the team’s 27-10 victory which sent them to Super Bowl XXXVII.
Head coach Greg Schiano openly stated that Barber would be welcomed back in 2013 but as the offseason progressed, it became clear that his role on the defense would change greatly. Last season, the Buccaneers moved Barber out of his traditional corner role and into a safety position. He responded well, becoming the team’s third leading tackler with 82 and leading the team in interceptions at four. Barber was named as an alternated to the NFC Pro Bowl roster.
There is no doubt that Barber would have been able to play at a high level in 2013 but it’s not clear if his diminished role played a part in his decision. He would more than likely have filled the role of player/coach with just spot duties assigned to him. Riding the bench and participating in perhaps just 15-20 plays a game would simply not do for the highly competitive Barber.
Barber told Jay Glazer of FOX Sports on Wednesday, “I’ve had a better run than I ever could’ve dreamed of having.” 47 interceptions, 28 sacks and 1,476 career tackles later, Buccaneers fans would have to agree. The last question surrounding Barber’s career is whether or not he achieved enough on the field to warrant a trip to Canton.
Although his veteran leadership will be missed on the field, Barber made a wide decision to retire rather than to accept a diminished role where the majority of his season would play out on the sidelines.