Ronde Barber is on the short list for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, and he's got good company in former teammate and fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneer great John Lynch.
Barber, who made it to the semifinalist stage last fall in his first year of eligibility in 2018, made it one step farther the fourth time around and now joins Lynch as two of the 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2021. The Hall's selection committee will not meet as it traditionally does on the day before the Super Bowl to make the final decisions, instead holding a virtual meeting on January 19. Still, it would be fitting for Barber and/or Lynch to get the call this year because Super Bowl LV will be played in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.
Lynch has been named a finalist for the eighth straight year, beginning in 2014. That run of finalist selections, in and of itself, is an indication that the voters believe Lynch is worthy of enshrinement. Every other person who was a finalist in 2014 has since been selected for the Hall of Fame, and recent classes have cleared up a bit of a logjam at the safety position with Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Steve Atwater all being inducted.
Barber and Lynch could become the fourth and fifth players who spent all or the majority of his career with the Buccaneers to get a gold jacket, joining Lee Roy Selmon (Class of 1995), Warren Sapp (2013) and Derrick Brooks (2014). Other Hall of Famers who have ties to the Buccaneers include Tony Dungy, the team's head coach from 1996-2001, quarterback Steve Young and guard Randall McDaniel.
Like Brooks and Sapp, Barber and Lynch were key figures in the Buccaneers' franchise turnaround in the mid-'90s and its subsequent run to the Super Bowl XXXVII championship. Lynch played 11 seasons for Tampa Bay (1993-2003) before finishing his career with four years in Denver; he first came to the Buccaneers as a third-round draft pick in 1993. Barber played 16 seasons in the NFL, all with the Buccaneers, and is the only player in NFL history to make 200 consecutive starts at the cornerback position.
Like Lynch, Barber was a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers, becoming Lynch's teammate in 1997. He would go on to set franchise records for games played (241), games started (232), interceptions (47) and defensive touchdowns (14). He started 215 consecutive games to end his career and never missed a game due to injury. Most notably, Barber is the only player in league history to record at least 45 interceptions and at least 25 sacks. He is credited with helping to redefine the slot corner position as he spent most of his career in a dual role playing both outside corner and inside in the nickel. As a slot corner, he showed incredible blitzing ability and also was a key part of the Buccaneers' run defense, finishing his career with 1,428 tackles, an incredible number for a cornerback.
Barber was a big-play machine for the Buccaneers, scoring an incredible 14 touchdowns. Only three players in the history of the league (Devin Hester, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson) own more non-offensive touchdowns. And if Hall voters like signature plays, Barber checks that mark as well. His game-sealing 92-yard interception in the 2002 NFC Championship Game sent the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl and is one of the most memorable moments in playoff history.
Lynch was named to the Pro Bowl following nine of his 14 seasons, including the last four in Denver. He earned three first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections and one second-team choice to go with those nine Pro Bowl nods. He also has the rare distinction of being selected for the Ring of Honor for two franchises, as both the Buccaneers and Broncos enshrined him among their all-time greats in 2016.
Lynch is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in NFL history. During his time as a Buccaneer he earned the nickname, "The Closer," from long-time Bucs Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin thanks to his penchant for game-sealing turnovers. His career statistics include 1,277 tackles, 26 interceptions, 13.0 sacks, 100 passes defensed and 16 forced fumbles.