The Redskins now have six running backs under contract: Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love, J.D. McKissic, Josh Ferguson and Barber. Barber, 26, proved himself a capable starter while leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in rushing twice in his first four seasons. The move suggests the Redskins might not trust Guice and/or Love, promising young backs who have battled injury issues, to be reliable options this season.
Both are still working back from serious setbacks. While playing five games in his first two seasons, Guice has suffered three major knee injuries — a torn left ACL, a torn right meniscus and a sprained left MCL — and Love missed his entire rookie season with a torn right ACL. Their health now is unclear, but Love recently told the Redskins’ team-run podcast that he expects to be ready to play by training camp.
In the past, the Redskins might have bet on the health of Guice and Love and left it at that. But as Rivera has demonstrated throughout free agency, he will create options. Barber’s low contract guarantee of $600,000 and Guice’s and Love’s relatively cheap rookie contracts will allow Rivera to evaluate all three during training camp and choose whom to keep moving forward.
Guice seemed to sense what could come next: He indirectly addressed the addition on Twitter minutes after Barber’s signing became public by writing, “Note to self, control what you can control.” The tweet was later deleted.
Barber, a physical runner fond of pushing the pile, could force himself onto the roster. He’s a proven commodity in the way Guice and Love are not, and he promises to provide a high-floor contribution. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder debuted in the NFL in 2016 after going undrafted out of Auburn. The Buccaneers cut him at the end of his first training camp, re-signed him to the practice squad and watched as he developed into a No. 1 running back. He finished with 871 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in 2018, but Barber criticized his own 3.7 yards-per-carry average that season.
Last year, under new coach Bruce Arians, Barber wanted to entrench himself as the team’s top option. But Ronald Jones II, a second-round draft pick out of Southern California, overtook him to become the Buccaneers’ top running back, and Barber was on his way out after posting 470 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Now, a year after trying to stop hungry running backs from unseating him, Barber will enter Redskins training camp trying to do the same thing.