Ronde Barber's switch to safety in 2012 was a brilliant move that will extend his career by at least a couple of seasons.
At 37 years old, Barber has lost a few ticks off his 40-yard dash time since the days of his youth. Not only is he a few steps slower than he used to be, but he isn't as quick, either.
Last season as a cornerback, Barber struggled to keep up with the next generation of pass catchers inundating the NFL. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated him their No. 108-ranked cornerback out of 109.
He graded particularly bad in the area of missed tackles. PFF noted 22 missed tackles on the season for Barber—five more than the next-worst cornerback, Jabari Greer.
Many of those missed tackles were on quick routes to his side, as younger, quicker receivers were able to skip past him. As a result of those missed tackles, Barber allowed 340 yards after the catch—the third-worst total in that category, per PFF.
Thankfully for Barber and the Buccaneers, he hasn't lost any of his instincts, vision and overall football IQ. The switch from corner to safety has allowed him to utilize those talents to the fullest without having to deal with the arduous task of tracking wide receivers at all times.
There isn't a play opposing teams can run that Barber hasn't seen a thousand times before. Being that the Buccaneers feature so many young players, his presence in defensive huddles can't be overstated.
He's now playing next to rookie strong safety Mark Barron, who is seriously talented, but also seriously raw. Barber's switch to safety hasn't only helped his own career tremendously, but he's the perfect man to mentor Barron and teach him how to be a proper pro.
Through seven games, Barber has tallied 39 tackles (31 solo), one sack, three interceptions and eight passes defended. He's on pace to have his highest interception total since 2001, when he intercepted 10 passes.
It's clear that the move from cornerback to safety has been positive for Barber and the Buccaneers. With the way he and his team are playing right now, I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing through 2014 and finishing his career with a magical postseason run.