1. Ronde Barber
You didn’t really think I would leave this guy out now, did you?
In the years leading up to 1997, the seeds of something special were starting to sprout. Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were in town, terrorizing quarterbacks. The aforementioned John Lynch was patrolling the middle. Mike Alstott was running people over. But, the Bucs record in 1995 was 7-9, and in 1996 it was 6-10.
They needed another piece. The Bucs need a cornerback that could shut people down on the outside. Ronde Barber came along in the third round of the 1997 draft. The Bucs didn’t finish below .500 again until 2003, the year after they won the Super Bowl. I think that tells us as much about his impact as anything else does.
Barber took over the starting role in 1998. That year he posted his first two career interceptions. He went on to post at least two interceptions every year of his career except for one (2009). He was an absolute model of consistency, earning five Pro Bowl selections, not to mention the four times he was named first team All-Pro.
His best year of his life came in 2001 when he posted ten interceptions, tied for first in the league with Anthony Henry of the Cleveland Browns. The following year in the run up to the Super Bowl, Barber posted a 92 yard interception return for a touchdown in the 27-10 route over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game.
For his career, Barber posted a franchise best 47 interceptions, tops by a wide margin (Donnie Abraham is second with 32).
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