Barber, an exclusive rights free agent, agreed to a one-year, $630,000 contract with the Buccaneers, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The deal is merely a formality, as Barber won't have a shot to sign elsewhere until 2019, when he'll be a restricted free agent. He currently sits atop the depth chart at running back, but it won't come as any surprise if the Bucs land an upgrade in free agency or the draft. Doug Martin was released in February, while Charles Sims is set to become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday. Barber impressively closed out last season with five straight weeks recording at least 51 rushing yards and 3.9 yards per carry. He was undrafted coming out of Auburn in 2016.
Barber is one of the Buccaneers' top internal options to replace Doug Martin, who was released Tuesday, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. The 23-year-old Barber is technically an exclusive-rights free agent this offseason, but it's fully expected he'll be retained in 2018. Barber established career bests across the stat sheet in his second season and already displaced Martin as the top backfield option for the final five games. Despite poor blocking in front on him, Barber often proved adept at finding space while Martin failed to do so, demonstrating the power and efficiency befitting of a lead back by averaging between 4.1 and 4.8 yards per carry in five of the seven games in which he logged double-digit totes. Having incurred low mileage over his first pair of pro seasons, Barber will be poised to challenge for the role of No. 1 back alongside Jacquizz Rodgers and potential additions via the draft or free agency.
Barber rushed 13 times for 51 yards and brought in both of his targets for four yards in Sunday's 22-19 loss to the Panthers. Barber once again helmed the Buccaneers backfield, despite the fact that Doug Martin was back in uniform after being made a healthy scratch Week 15. The second-year running back ran with his trademark decisiveness, but Tampa was in catch-up mode in the second half, capping his opportunities overall. Given the disparity of performance between Barber and Martin, the former appears headed for another starting assignment in the regular-season finale versus the Saints next Sunday.
Barber rushed 13 times for 53 yards and caught all three of his targets for 15 yards, but he also lost a fumble in Monday night's 24-21 defeat against the Falcons. Barber was handed the start in the wake of Doug Martin being deactivated, but considering he entered Monday following 40 touches the prior two weeks, his significant workload wasn't anything new. Although his 4.1 yards per carry gave him a third straight game with at least that many on average, his second-quarter fumble hurt his performance. Given his recent production, however, Barber should remain in the mix even if Martin returns for Week 16's trip to Carolina.
The Buccaneers are expected to have Barber in the starting lineup Monday against the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Getting the nod Week 13 when Doug Martin sat out due to a concussion, Barber reeled off 102 yards on 23 carries and also tacked on four receptions on as many targets for 41 yards. With Martin back in the lineup last weekend versus the Lions, Barber outgained Martin, 63 to 50, in yards from scrimmage, which may have been precipitated by Martin's second-quarter fumble. On this occasion, expect Barber to handle most of the running back reps, but Martin likely will pick up a handful of touches.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
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