CB Ronde Barber has locked in on the Bucs' RCB job the last two years
And then there was one.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the NFL free agency period in February with a list of restricted free agents that included seven names and three starters. On Tuesday, fourth-year CB Ronde Barber became the sixth player off that list to re-sign with the team.
Barber agreed to the one-year tender offer extended to him at the beginning of free agency. Like all restricted free agents, Barber had until April 10 to receive offers from other teams, though the Buccaneers retained the right to match any offers; after that date, Barber was free to negotiate only with Tampa Bay.
Barber's re-signing assures that the team will go into training camp with just one new starter on the NFC's top-rated defense, MLB Jamie Duncan. Barber, who started 15 of 16 games at right cornerback for the Buccaneers in 1999, helped Tampa Bay's pass defense hold opponents to 179.6 passing yards per game and rank second in the league for the second straight season.
Over the last two seasons, Barber has emerged as one of the top playmakers on the Bucs' defense. Though he appeared in just one regular-season game as a rookie in 1997, Barber had a breakout season in '98 with 68 tackles, two interceptions (returned for 67 yards), two forced fumbles, three sacks and a team-leading 17 passes defensed. Proving his breakthrough to be no fluke, the former third-round draft pick posted nearly-identical stats in 1999: 74 tackles, two interceptions (returned for 67 yards), one sack and 16 passes defensed. Considered a tough player, he appeared in all 16 games despite midseason ankle and shoulder injuries.
Barber was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference standout at Virginia, where he picked off 15 passes in just three seasons. He was taken 66th overall by the Bucs in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft. Barber's twin brother, Tiki, is a running back for the New York Giants.
Tampa Bay's one restricted free agent left to re-sign is TE Patrick Hape, who was on hand for the team's recently-concluded summer workouts but unable to participate fully due to a foot injury. Hape, a fourth-year tight end notable for his excellent blocking, had surgery on his right foot last week and is expected to be at full speed by training camp. Unsigned players were allowed to participate in all or parts of the workouts by signing a waiver but will not be allowed to join the team in training camp without a current contract. Players report for the Buccaneers' training camp on Sunday, July 23.
All six of the Bucs' former restricted free agents have agreed to return to the team within the last six weeks, including G Frank Middleton (May 5), QB Scott Milanovich (May 8), S Damien Robinson (May 15), G/C Kevin Dogins (May 26) and CB Floyd Young (May 30).