With word emerging recently about the 36-year old Tiki Barber allegedly including the Buccaneers in his short list of teams he would consider playing for, speculation has started to grow about whether the Bucs would give him a look. One word immediately comes to mind.
Why would a team like the Buccaneers have any interest in Tiki Barber?
First, where would Tiki fit? The Bucs already have a good bit of talent at the tailback position, and Mark Dominik hasn’t even dipped his toe in the undrafted free agency pool yet. Dominik said during the draft that he’s a collector of big running backs, which he proved by drafting a punishing runner in Allen Bradford from USC in the 5th round of this year’s draft. Raheem Morris told me that Bradford is capable of handling a share of the carries as a committee with LeGarrette Blount, so we’re not necessarily talking about a guy who would come in and take up only a few short yardage carries. Kareem Huggins should be back from a knee injury and in strong consideration to be the team’s change-of-pace back. Huggins was very solid in the preseason last year before succumbing to a knee injury early in the regular season.
Barber might arguably fit to some degree in a 3rd-down back role. However, with a large amount of money likely to be spent to reach a new “floor” under whatever new CBA we get, the Bucs will likely look to re-sign some of their own free agents, and Cadillac Williams makes too much sense on this roster to let leave town. While struggling as an every-down runner, he excelled as a third-down back. He was efficient running the football on third down and provided Josh Freeman good pass protection and a safety valve to dump the ball off to.
Also, while the Bucs weren’t at a “Cowboys-of-the-90s” level of off-field distractions last season, they still had more players appear in the news for the wrong reasons than I’m sure they would have liked. It’s just too much of a risk to put a player like Barber, who has a noted feud with Antonio Pierce and Eli Manning, around a young and still somewhat impressionable team that built a strong locker room last year under Josh Freeman and a group of budding leaders.
Speaking of young…well, Barber isn’t. At 36, his best years are presumably behind him. He’s been out of the league for four years. As players continue to get faster and stronger, Tiki has watched (and aged) from a television studio. Even if he kept himself in playing shape, he lacks game experience during that time, which just can’t be replaced. Also, he keeps a younger player off the field, and Dominik has stressed time and again the emphasis on youth with this football team.
Ultimately, don’t expect the Bucs to give Tiki Barber a second thought once the lockout is lifted.