Ronde Barber is the only cornerback in NFL history with at least 20 career interceptions and at least 20 career sacks
Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber has signed a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could now finish his illustrious career with the only NFL team for which he has ever played.
What that bit of news from the heart of the Bucs' training camp in Lake Buena Vista, Florida lacks in shock value it makes up in significance. In fact, it is difficult to overstate the importance of Barber's play to Tampa Bay's outstanding defense since 1998.
Barber's third contract with the Buccaneers – he signed as a rookie third-rounder in 1997 and got a new contract just before his first Pro Bowl season of 2001 – means he will remain in the Cover 2 defensive scheme for which he is so ideal beyond the 2006 campaign. His previous contract was due to expire next March, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent.
Barber, who would have commanded considerable interest on the free agent market, is thrilled to be tied to the Buccaneers for the long term.
"This team has always put me in a position to succeed and I think I've done a lot to help this team win," said Barber. "These days, there aren't a lot of guys who get to play their whole career for one team, and to do so here would be an honor for me. They made it clear that they appreciate me, and I'm glad we could get a deal done today."
As is team policy, the terms of Barber's new deal were not disclosed. In a larger sense, though, the new contract continues the Bucs' long-standing efforts to retain their cornerstone players. Barber is certainly one of those. He has started 103 consecutive games for the Buccaneers, the longest streak among active NFL cornerbacks, and has never missed a contest due to injury. Overall, Barber has played in 129 games as a Buccaneer, and his 120 starts are the seventh most in franchise annals.
"We believe Ronde's future is as bright as his past," said General Manager Bruce Allen. "Any time you can re-sign a team captain and a perennial All-Pro player, it is a great day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Keeping him here with the Buccaneers was one of our priorities. Both sides were motivated to get a deal done. Now Buccaneer fans can enjoy watching this outstanding performer for years to come."
Barber enters the 2006 season with a chance to become the Bucs' all-time leader in interceptions, as his 28 career picks trail Donnie Abraham's total of 31 by just three. Barber has had eight picks over the last two seasons combined and has averaged five interceptions per year over the last five seasons. He is also sixth on the club's career tackle list, with 770, and has more stops than any other cornerback in team history.
Barber's accomplishments aren't limited to the Bucs' record books, either. Last December, he became just the seventh player in NFL history to amass at least 20 interceptions and at least 20 sacks. As for cornerbacks, he is the lone member in the NFL's 20/20 club.
Barber has made three trips to the Pro Bowl, his first following a team-record 10-interception outburst in 2001. He has returned to the all-star game in each of the last two years and is also a four-time AP All-Pro choice, including a first-team selection on three occasions.
Clearly, Barber will finish his career as one of the greatest defensive players ever to wear a Buccaneer uniform. It's now possible that he will never wear any other NFL uniform.