Reports emerged Tuesday that former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber has submitted the necessary paperwork to return from retirement. Barber retired at the end of the 2006 season and the height of his career. He was 30 years old then and will be re-entering the league at an age when most running backs are considering retirement and all running backs’ numbers are declining.
The New York Giants retain Barber’s contract but have already said they would release the veteran from his two-year obligation making him a free agent.
Is there, though, any interest in signing a running back (no matter how great he was) that hasn’t played a down in five years and is much older than optimal?
The following teams are 2010’s lowest ranked teams in terms of rushing yards. Here’s a look at whether or not even they would be willing to subsidize Barber’s divorce settlement and serve as reputation damage control for this self-de-railed one-time superstar.
The Cardinals’ running backs combined for a total of 1,388 yards rushing in 2010. Tim Hightower accounts for just over 700, injured Beanie Wells for 400, Larod Stephens-Howling barely broke 100 yards and the change is peppered between three other backs.
The Cardinals’ true focus is likely to be at quarterback, the gaping hole Kurt Warner left. Perhaps, they’ll consider signing Barber solely because they wish their own star veteran would come out of retirement.
Arizona may actually jump at a veteran easy answer and possible bargain (depending on how the pending rookie wage scale affects the veteran contract minimum) in a panicked attempt to get back in the game before the recent Super Bowl contenders become completely obsolete.
The Seahawks are still in a rebuilding phase, and Pete Carroll, now entering his sophomore season as the Seahawks’ head coach, certainly does like to throw curve balls at his fanbase and pull players out of left field (wait, what sport is this?).
But, with his measurable focus on a quick and successful base for the future of the club, it would be a stretch, even for Mr. Carroll, to pursue an aging player, (even with stats comparable to Seattle last standout at that position, Shaun Alexander) who will only be helpful for a couple more years—and that’s if Barber manages to pick up where he left off.
Yes, the Seahawks’ running game struggled last season, but that’s more the cause of the play-calling and the shoddy offensive line than it is a direct reflection on Seattle’s running back duo (see: Week 6 or this infamous play).
The Redskins illustrated their view of older players when they recently released 29-year-old Clinton Portis who is only 77 yards shy of 10,000 total rushing yards and who has been the face of the franchise throughout his seven year career. All the remaining running backs on the team are 25 or younger.
Granted, Portis has been injured the previous two seasons, and his production has dropped dramatically whereas when Tiki Barber left the league, he was at the height of his performance and healthy as a horse.
Still, the Redskins are undoubtedly looking towards a younger crop of players to gain a long-term stability which they haven’t enjoyed in recent memory.
With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Colts have a highly formidable passing game (let’s ignore his midseason Eli-esque slump), but nearly no running game. Not one of the team’s running backs broke 500 yards in 2010.
This is a team that could actually savor the services of a veteran yard eater like Tiki. In Barber’s first year as a starting back (and having sat out four games with a knee injury), he produced more rushing yards than any of the Colts’ current options did last year.
With four RBs flirting with free agency and Reggie Bush not producing the numbers someone with an $8 million salary should (plus reports that the Saints are looking at Clinton Portis), no one should be surprised to see a complete overhaul of New Orleans’ backfield this offseason.
The Saints like hyped-up players (see: Bush, Jones, Betts) and will at least open Barber’s file even if they don’t draw up an offer sheet.
With the Bengals comes the question of whether or not Barber would be satisfied taking a secondary role. The Bengals are another of those pass-driven teams spotlighting Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
In the backfield, they rely heavily on the talents of one Cedric Benson and will be likely to resign the free agent after the CBA is in place. While another strong back would certainly help lighten the load, it’s certainly not a priority for Cincinnati.
The Broncos are a team that may be undergoing a massive restructuring with new head coach John Fox. But, most of that focus will be aimed at the defense, trying to slip out of the bottom-ranking and into something a little more comfortable.
Plus, the Broncos didn’t get to see if LenDale White would be of any assistance since he spent last season sidelined with an Achilles injury.
I doubt Barber is more than a water cooler anecdote in those offices.
The Rams had just one running back with any significant amount of production last season. Steven Jackson accounted for 1,241 of their 1,578 yards. Imagine what they could do with an equally strong option to complement him.
Better hold tight to that dream, though, St. Louis fans, because the Rams aren’t likely to take any dramatic steps in that direction—not with their definite pass rush needs. And, even if they do go that route, this up-and-coming team is likely to go with a more sustainable option.
The Super Bowl Champions certainly aren’t looking for quick fix offensive players like Barber. In fact, the only reason they are on this list is because they are primarily a passing team. They sport a young QB (who, in fact, accounts for well over 300 of Green Bay’s 1,600 total rushing yards) who is entering the prime of his career, coupled with an equally primed receiver (Greg Jennings)—that offense is plenty sturdy.
It’s possible that the Packers are looking to bring in a future replacement for 36-year-old receiver Donald Driver, but that’s about all the offensive improvement they have to focus on.
Detroit has one of the most tortured fanbases in the league. The front office is constantly making decisions that seem to be tailored specifically for the detriment of the team.
In the last couple years (despite their win-loss record), things are finally seeming to come together; they’re not suffering blowout losses, and the front office has decided that protecting the QB is a top priority... What a perfect opportunity for the Lions’ bigwigs to strike again.
With no running game to speak of and no patience to wait for rookie Jahvid Best to come into his own, the Lions may jump at the chance to bolster their backfield with a big-name talent that nobody else is really interested in.
Perhaps a team that faired better numbers-wise, but who has greater backfield needs (*ahem**Miami**ahem*) may give Barber the nod. But, ultimately, this ill-inspired comeback is likely to be anti-climactic.