The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent a great deal of money this offseason to re-do their defensive backfield this offseason in an attempt to regain the glories of past Bucs defenses. Now, the last man standing from the 2002 team that won Super Bowl XXXVII has decided to call it a career. After 16 NFL seasons, cornerback Ronde Barber will retire.
Jay Glazer of FOX Sports was the first with the news.
Just got off the phone w Ronde Barber who told me he is officially retiring. "I've had a better run than I ever could've dreamed of having."
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) May 8, 2013
Barber was selected by the Bucs in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft, and he was a huge fixture on a defense that excelled with multiple mid-1990s draft picks -- Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch as the other prominent players. From 1996 through 2005, Tampa Bay always ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, and the 2002 defense is rightly regarded as one of the best in NFL history. Through the years, Barber was the leader of that secondary, and his leadership transferred to a new generation of Bucs defenders as the other veterans retired and moved on to other things.
When the Bucs took Alabama safety Mark Barron in the first round of the 2012 draft, Barber was the first to show him the ropes.
"Sometimes I just sit back and watch Ronde to pick up some of the things he knows,'' Barron said last August. "There isn't too much in this league Ronde Barber hasn't seen. When I ask him for help, he usually has a good answer for me.''
But that Tampa Bay secondary was in serious transition in 2012, and the Bucs had one of the first pass defenses in the NFL last season. To shore that situation up, the team added former San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, engineered a long-rumored trade for ex-New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, and selected Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round of the 2013 draft. If Barber was to come back, his role would have obviously been diminished.
In 2012, the 37-year-old Barber continued a trend that he'd established since 2000 in which he started every game the Bucs played. However, it was also the first time he was asked to play safety, which is generally a sign that a cornerback is slowing down. But he did pick off four passes, returning one for a 78-yard touchdown, and put up 13 passes defensed. Barber may have had a future as a nickel or dime player in Tampa Bay's revised secondary, but he's gone a different way.
In his career, Barber started 232 games, and played in 241. Barber wasn't just a great pass defender in his prime -- he amassed 28 quarterback sacks and 1,025 total tackles. He also intercepted 47 passes (which put him fifth on the all-time list among active players), and forced 15 fumbles.