TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Cornerback Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers breaks up a pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez #88 of the Atlanta Falcons September 25, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have told veteran cornerback Ronde Barber that they would welcome him back for a 16th season. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik let the Times know that Barber, Schiano and he have had several meetings, but that Barber has asked for more time to make his decision. This is reminiscent of last year, when Barber signed a one-year, $4 million deal near the end of February. This year, it's taking a little longer, but it seems likely that the veteran would return.
If he does return, the question becomes: what role should Ronde Barber play? While Barber was the second-best cornerback on the team last season, he is no longer good enough to be a quality starter on the outside. While the wiley veteran still has some skills, his tackling has steadily declined, and he is increasingly having trouble covering quality wide receivers.
There's still a role Ronde Barber does fullfill, however, and that is be a nickel back, especially when facing tight ends. He can use his quickness and experience to greater effect in those situations, and the position allows for him to be used in a variety of ways.
Unfortunately, though, it's clear that the end is soon coming for the longest tenured Buccaneer. Whether that end comes this year, next year, or the year after - at some point he will no longer be good enough to play football at this level. Until that time comes, look for his role on defense to steadily be reduced.