Tiki Barber’s Potential Return to the NFL
By Kyle of Predictem.com
Is Tiki Barber coming out of retirement?
The former NYG RB started a media whirlwind when he announced he was planning a comeback. Tiki, who turns 36 in April, has not seen an NFL field since the 2006 season.
The sudden urge to retake the field has many speculating the catalyst for the return. Barber contends he misses the game of football, though others contend the former running back simply needs the money. After a messy divorce and semi-failed attempt at broadcasting, Barber may be in a heap of financial trouble.
Regardless of his intentions, Barber may be nave to believe there is a huge demand for a 36 year old running back. The shelf life of a running back is short as is. Once backs hit 30, they tend to see a serious decline in their production and value.
In the 2010 season, no back over the age of 28 broke 1,000 yards rushing. In each of the three seasons prior to Barber’s initial retirement, he rushed for over 1,500 yards. Are NFL teams to believe Barber will see even remotely close to the production he put forth in the closing years of his NFL career?
It is unclear how much money Barber would want for his services. He carries a high risk and will take up a valuable roster spot. Teams may be reluctant to allow Barber to be a third back in an offense, as a developmental player who contributes on special teams presents greater value.
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Even teams starving for run production seem likely to steer clear of Barber. Take Arizona, for example. The Cardinals were the league’s worst rushing team in 2010. They only rushed for 1,388 yards as a team for the entire season.
Even so, it is unlikely Barber would be able to find a place on the roster. The Cardinals have Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower as their one-two punch already. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jason Wright both contribute on special teams. The opportunity cost of freeing up a roster spot to sign Barber is too great for the Cardinals.
Most teams in the NFL simply aren’t in a position to bring in a back like Barber. The Jets struck gold by bringing in LaDainian Tomlinson, but Tomlinson is significantly younger and more physically gifted than Barber.
There is one team who may be intrigued by Barber’s return to the NFL. The Washington Redskins recently parted ways with Clinton Portis. The Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing last year. They have two developmental, virtually unheard of backs on roster in Ryan Torain and Keland Williams.
Barber may be able to come in and share some of the load. He could serve as a mentor to the younger backs and be more than just a situational back. The Redskins witnessed the adverse effects of having an injury prone feature back. Though Barber is obviously fresh, his age makes it difficult to imagine him playing out a full 16 game season.
Luckily for Barber, Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder is not afraid to take risks. He is notorious for shelling out large quantities of money at players who may be past their prime. He also buys into big name guys. Ex-marquee players like Albert Haynesworth, Antwaan Randle el, and Adam Archuleta, to name a few.
Before any team is willing to take a chance on Barber, he is going to need to prove he is in football shape. There is no substitute for playing the game, but the workout regimen of a retiree turned analyst is probably not rigorous enough to render NFL ready results. Barber has reportedly begun working out with his personal trainer. Whether or not he will be able to convince teams he is in shape enough to finish out a season is yet to be seen.
It appears as though the Barber comeback has sparked a lot of intrigue among the general public, but it is doubtful teams will share the same enthusiasm. A team or two may be in dire need for a situational running back and seek Barber’s services in an act of desperation.
Barber is currently 22nd on the list of all-time leading rushers. He is in an exclusive group of 10,000 yard rushers. If he remains retired, he will be viewed as an exceptional back. By returning, he may taint his legacy, much like Brett Favre.
If it is money Barber is concerned with, seeking out alternate business ventures may be in his best interest. He claims his return to the NFL stems from a desire to, “still have fun at [his] age”. Teams need to investigate how genuine his valor really is.