2012 NFL Free Agents: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Want CB Ronde Barber Back in 2012

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IMarch 9, 2012

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 21:  Defensive back Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks at the scoreboard against the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Father Time hasn't ended the career of veteran cornerback Ronde Barber just yet.

According to Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have told the soon-to-be 37-year-old that they would welcome him back for a 16th season in the NFL, but Barber hasn't yet committed to playing another year.

Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik broke down the current situation:

Ronde, coach Schiano and I have had several meetings, he knows we'd like him back for a 16th season. We will respect his wish for a little more time to make his decision and look forward to speaking with him again soon.

An unrestricted free agent if he does decide to play another year in the NFL, Barber only appears interested in returning with the Buccaneers. In 15 professional seasons, all with Tampa Bay, Barber has 43 interceptions, 27 sacks and seven defensive touchdowns. 

A free agent last summer, Barber signed a one-year, $4 million to stay in Tampa Bay. During a tumultuous season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, Barber registered three interceptions and nine passes defensed. Some argued that Barber was the Bucs' best defensive player in 2011.

Pro Football Focus vehemently disagrees with that last sentiment.  

According to their ratings, which factor in grades for every player on every play, Barber was a liability last season. He received negative grades in pass and run defense and as a blitzer. 

On almost 1,000 snaps, Barber allowed 46 catches 583 yards and four touchdowns. He also missed a startling 22 tackles.

Despite some of his limitations, the Bucs could use his veteran presence back for at least another season. The team is dealing with several legal issues surrounding Aqib Talib, which makes his status for next season cloud at best. Depth at cornerback is an obvious problem for the Bucs looking ahead to 2012.

There are names available this offseason to help fix that deficiency. 

Tampa Bay is widely assumed to be pursuing free-agent cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr, and the possibility exists for the Bucs to use the No. 5 overall pick in April's 2012 NFL draft on LSU's Morris Claiborne.

Somehow, someway, the Buccaneers will upgrade the position this spring.

But even if the Bucs sign a top name and draft Claiborne, Barber could help show each player the ropes and provide a player who can handle covering the nickelback role. 

Given that the Bucs also have almost $70 million in cap room available, it would seem crazy if the team didn't want Barber back next season. If he's willing to play another season under another new head coach, his spot is waiting for him in Tampa Bay.