The Tampa Bay Buccaneers met with Ronde Barber in the past few days to see if the defensive back would be interested in returning for a 17th season. As theTampa Bay Times reported yesterday, the Buccaneers would like to see Ronde back. That, at least, is what they just said as they issued a statement saying, well, exactly that. That's a bit of an unusual move: the Buccaneers are usually fairly quiet with statements like that, but they apparently saw fit to make an exception for the old veteran.
That's no real surprise, but the question is, as always: does Ronde Barber want to return. Barber played as a safety for the first time in his career last season, and thrived at the position after an inconsistent first couple of games. He ended the season with four interceptions, one sack and a touchdown. He looked like he'd be fine playing for another season and didn't appear to slow down at all.
His role did change as the season progressed, as the Bucs lost more and more cornerbacks. At the end of the season, Barber was mostly playing as a slot cornerback in the box with Ahmad Black playing as a half-field safety. The question now is whether the Buccaneers want to keep Barber as a nickel cornerback or as a safety. My preference would be to stick him at free safety and let him roam deep, although he's valuable in the slot as well. A mix of both roles is most likely to be the outcome, though.
The fact that Barber has yet to make his decision complicates matters for the Buccaneers, who have to fill a number of holes in free agency and the draft. Clearly the Buccaneers need to add cornerbacks regardless of whether or not Barber returns, but if he doesn't return the Buccaneers suddenly have a need for a free safety capable of playing like a centerfielder. The only free agent capable of thriving in that role is Dashon Goldson, but he's the best free agent safety on the market and unlikely to be available after a few days. If the Bucs want to use free agency to fill that hole, they will have to act fast and cannot wait for Barber to make his decision.