It’s third and three at the 48-yard line. There are just under two minutes to go. Peyton Barber is lined up behind Jameis Winston. Is there any confidence that Barber will get those three yards for the first down to close out the game?
Most Bucs fans would answer this question with no, which is why the Bucs need to pursue a new starting running back to replace Barber in 2019.
Barber has been the Bucs starting running back for only one season.
He was handed the job going into the 2018 season without any real competition and did not perform before badly, but his performance was painfully inconsistent.
The problem with Barber’s inconstancy is that it makes him unreliable as a starter.
An NFL starting running back should be counted on to get tough yards when needed. Barber has yet to prove he can do that.
By no means has Barber proved he can put the team on his back and be counted on to propel the team to a win like Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas, Todd Gurley in Los Angeles, or James Conner in Pittsburgh.
The best backs in the game can provide their teams with 100-yard games week in and week out.
Over the course of his 20 career starts Barber has had only two games where he rushed for over 100 (2017 Vs. GB & 2018 Vs. NYG)
As of now, Barber is still the Bucs best option on the current roster; thus they should not cut him loose. Instead, they should look to add a starter while keeping Barber in as the second running back on the depth chart.
The Bucs have too many needs to use their fifth overall draft pick on a running back. Thus, the free agent market is where the Bucs should look to add a reliable starting running back.
Two free agent backs that the Bucs should consider are Mark Ingram and Latavius Murray.
Ingram has had two 1,000 yard rushing seasons in his career with the Saints (2016 & 2017) and would bring a veteran and battle-tested presence to the Tampa Bay backfield.
As for Murray, he has averaged over four yards per carry in his career and when given a chance to start has had a lot of success.
Murray is a durable back and has missed only three games since 2014. He would also likely fit in the Bucs tight budget as he is in line to be paid 1.6-1.8 million a year.
Murray has made it clear he wants to the featured back wherever he signs. In Tampa, he could be just that.
Barber is a restricted free agent himself.
Despite the fact he will likely remain in Tampa the Bucs must assure they find an additional back who can carry the load of a sixteen game season, and be that grinding back that will provide the team the tough yards when needed most.