The Bucs have made it clear to Ronde Barber and everyone else that they’re going to proceed with rebuilding their secondary regardless of the safety's decision to retire or continue playing for a 17th season.

In that regard, what ultimately happens with one of our region’s most beloved athletes might seem secondary as it relates to the Bucs’ offseason plans. After all, the Bucs have already replaced Barber, signing All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, the presumptive starting free safety.

But, the reality is, in a league where rosters are limited to 53 players, whether Barber elects to return is actually a big deal.

It’s safe to assume he’ll play an important role in the slot or near the line of scrimmage in passing situations. And in today’s NFL, that’s about half the defensive snaps. That’s not a bit role, but quite an important one.

If Barber returns – and the Bucs told him the door is open, though he’ll have to accept a reduced role – it has a trickle-down effect. With Barber in the fold, the Bucs would have less of a need for depth at cornerback, because he could play the slot role. While the Bucs still are very likely to acquire two starting-caliber cornerbacks between now and the draft, having Barber on passing downs could make nickel back less of a priority.

Having Barber on the roster also gives the Bucs good depth at safety in the event Goldson or Mark Barron suffered an injury.