The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open training camp next week with a fully-intact roster.
The Buccaneers, whose players will report for camp next Thursday and begin practice the following morning, announced on Friday that they have signed rookie safety Mark Barron to a five-year contract. That means all 90 players on the training camp roster are now under contract.
Barron's deal concluded the work of signing the team's seven-man 2012 draft class. Seventh-round selections running back Michael Smith and tight end Drake Dunsmore were the first to sign, inking their deals on May 7, just nine days after the last round of the draft. Fifth-round linebacker Najee Goode and sixth-round cornerback Keith Tandy, a pair of former West Virginia teammates, signed exactly one week after that and second-round linebacker Lavonte David got his contract work done on May 18. First-round draft picks are often the last to sign, and the Buccaneers had two of those this year, but running back Doug Martin (the 31st overall pick) struck his deal on June 4.
That left only Barron, the seventh overall pick in the first round, still unsigned, but there was little worry that the deal would be done before training camp. As it is, Barron is one of 22 first-round picks in 2012 who have signed their first NFL contracts, though just the fifth player in the top 10 to do so. Quarterbacks Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Robert Griffin III (Washington), the first two picks in the draft, have signed, as have linebacker Luke Kuechly (Carolina) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo), the ninth and 10th picks, respectively.
The Buccaneers have not had an extended training camp holdout by a rookie in almost two decades, since first-round quarterback Trent Dilfer in 1994. Even if there was a general sense of confidence that Barron's deal would be done in time, it is still encouraging for the Buccaneers that their top pick will start training camp on Day One. That's particularly true since Barron is considered a very strong bet to step right into the starting lineup at strong safety, taking the majority of the first-team reps at that spot during offseason workouts.
At Alabama, Barron was a two-time team captain, helping lead the Crimson Tide to the national championship last year. He started 39 of the 53 games he played, including every game he played in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Known as a very hard hitter, the 6-2, 213-pound Barron also has a nose for the football in pass coverage. He was the second defensive player taken in the entire draft in April, after cornerback Morris Claiborne went to Dallas with the sixth pick.
During his collegiate career, Barron recorded 237 tackles, 12 interceptions, 29 passes defensed, 13 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, seven quarterback pressures, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Barron finished his time with the Crimson Tide as a two-time first-team All-American and a three-time first-team All-SEC selection. His 12 interceptions ranked tied for the eighth-most in school history.
As a senior, Barron was a key part of the nation's top-ranked collegiate defense, as Alabama joined the 1986 Oklahoma Sooners as the only teams ever to rank first in scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Barron ranked second on the team with 68 tackles, adding two interceptions, five passes defensed, one sack, five tackles for loss and one fumble recovery. He was named a finalist for both the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back and the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player overall.