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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Bucs do right by Ronde Barber

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Let’s give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an organization that’s been kicked around quite a bit in recent years, a tip of the cap for doing something right. At a time when the uncertain labor situation has almost the entire NFL frozen, the Bucs went and thawed out their checkbook Tuesday.

They signed veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to a one-year contract. The Bucs could have stood around, like the rest of the league, and waited for a new labor agreement. But they took the proactive approach on this one and it’s the only right approach.

Barber, who has played his entire career in Tampa Bay, had told the team he’d like to play at least one more year. The Bucs have said all along they’d like Barber to keep playing because he performed at a high level last season.

The move was a no-brainer, but a lot of other teams might have botched this situation. The Bucs simply took care of business.

Barber will turn 36 in April, but his return means that a strength will remain a strength. He’s still considered a very solid cornerback and he starts opposite Aqib Talib, who many coaches, scouts and players consider one of the league’s top corners. There’s also depth at this position. The Bucs like young backups Myron Lewis, E.J. Biggers and Elbert Mack.

Some people inside One Buccaneer Place believe Lewis or Biggers could develop into a top-notch starter. They may not be at that level yet, but having Barber back for at least one more season buys the Bucs time.

It also represents a change in course for a team that has had some ugly farewells with some of the best players in its history. The Bucs drew criticism for showing John Lynch and Derrick Brooks the door in a very unfriendly way.

"Last season, Ronde once again showed that he's an invaluable professional and mentor to our young football team, both on and off the field,’’ general manager Mark Dominik said. “I'm also happy that our fans can continue to enjoy one of the Buccaneers' all-time greats."

Barber is the last of the great players from the great Tampa Bay teams. He fits in that same category with guys like Brooks, Lynch, Warren Sapp and Mike Alstott. Some of them didn’t get proper sendoffs. This deal means that Barber -- at least for now -- won’t face the same fate. He’ll play at least one more year and he’ll play it in the place he belongs.