The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly told franchise legend Ronde Barber that they would like him back in the fold next season, and they are allowing him time to decide if he would like to accept or not. Normally when we look at players contracts being renewed or players being released the focus is solely on what we expect that guy to do on the field. With Ronde, it’s a different story.
Ronde is no longer the elite cover guy and ball hawk he used to be. The 2002 version of Ronde is 11 years older, and has lost a step. But his best attribute is his ability to lead the defense. Barber is a consummate pro in the NFL. He’s the kind of guy that will be essentially a coach on the field. There’s nothing Ronde hasn’t seen before. There’s a lot Mark Barron, Mason Foster, and Adrian Clayborn haven’t seen. But Ronde is always in the right place, and can help make sure he passes along that wisdom to his younger teammates.
The Bucs have a lot of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. They have potential leaders on all three levels in Mark Barron, Mason Foster/Lavonte David, and Gerald McCoy. But what they don’t have is experience playing at a high level as defensive unit. The ability is there, but they need guidance. Ronde is the guru. He knows what it takes to be a part of a defense that carries a team to wins. He knows how to prepare, he knows how to make adjustments, and he knows how to get his team off the field, and set up his offense for success.
Barber is essentially a nickel back at this point of his career. He was solid at the safety spot a year ago, and the Bucs may opt to run him back out there in the same function next year if he comes back. He’s not going to be a critical piece physically to turn this defense around, but his presence will make the unit better. To borrow a baseball term, his “wins above replacement” is not going to be high, but his leadership and experience will suit this young unit well, both on the game field and more importantly the practice field. He gets the job done from an athletic perspective, but it’s what he does as a veteran and a leader that make his hopeful return in 2013 that much more important.