Barber was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Buccaneers and spent 16 seasons in a pewter jersey, pulling down 47 interceptions while playing in 241 games. The 38-year-old was selected to five Pro Bowls and was the last remaining member of the 2002 Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers with the team.
Last season Barber moved from cornerback to free safety in order to keep playing. With the addition of free agent Dashon Goldson this season, Barber would have been relegated to backup duty. Instead of sticking around for a 17th season, Barber decided to call it quits.
Tampa Bay’s secondary was porous at best in 2012, giving up a league-worst 4,758 passing yards. To bolster the unit the Buccaneers traded away their first-round draft pick this year for cornerback Darrell Revis and added Goldson at safety. They’ll join cornerback Eric Wright and strong safety Mark Barron to make up a much improved unit in 2013.
The Buccaneers also drafted Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round of the 2013 draft, who will likely be on the field in nickel situations.
Barber hanging up his cleats won’t terribly hurt the Buccaneers on the field, but his leadership and aura will definitely be missed.
The secondary in Tampa Bay this season is somewhat young. If you include the rookie Banks, the five members combined have just 19 years of NFL experience (Barber, remember, had 16 by himself) and sport an average age of 26.6. While Barber wouldn’t have spent much time on the field in 2013, his tutelage on the sideline or in the meeting rooms at One Buc Place would have proved invaluable.
Barber also is able to speak of a Super Bowl victory and powerful defenses that were the norm in Tampa.
Beginning in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl winning season of 2002, the Buccaneers rattled off four consecutive seasons of being able to boast about a top five overall defense. Take away the hiccup season in 2006 and from 2002 to 2008 the Buccaneers always enjoyed a top 10 overall defense. Sure, the Buccaneers had the league’s best run defense last season, but overall the unit ranked No. 29.
Barber was always there in the team facility to talk about the defensive glory days and why things worked then and haven’t as of late. Having Barber around was always sort of a measuring stick for the defense, a sentiment like "Remember when Barber was in his prime? That defense was incredible."
From an NFL experience standpoint, Barber will truly be missed in 2013. But on the field, the talent is still ready to play.