The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cornerback Ronde Barber are close to finalizing a five-year contract extension for the three-time Pro Bowler, according to

Barber, 31, has played an integral role in helping Tampa Bay’s defense rank in the Top 10 in each of his nine seasons with the Buccaneers. He has notched 770 tackles, 28 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 146 passes defensed during his nine-year career.

A 1997 third-round draft pick out of Virginia, Barber was scheduled to the third-highest paid Bucs player in 2006 behind only defensive end Simeon Rice and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland. Barber’s current salary cap value is $5.364 million, but that cap number likely will change once he signs the contract extension that reportedly could be worth as much as $24 million.

Last season, Barber earned a second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl by recording 120 tackles, two sacks, a team-high five interceptions and 22 passes defensed en route to helping Tampa Bay’s defense finish the season ranked No. 1 overall.

In addition to being the only cornerback in NFL history to notch 20 career interceptions and 20 career sacks, Barber is just four interceptions away from breaking Tampa Bay’s franchise record, which currently is held by former Bucs CB Donnie Abraham (31 picks from 1996-2001).

The 2006 season was scheduled to be Barber’s last with the Bucs. His contract extension could be finalized as soon as today.

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