November 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) celebrates with strong safety Roman Harper (41) after intercepting the ball in the end zone during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints: What Addition of Kenny Vaccaro Means for Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins

The New Orleans Saints made a big splash in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by selecting Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, which may have huge implications for players at the position already on the roster such as Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins.

Vaccaro was arguably the best player available when the Saints when on the clock at No. 15 overall. His addition means the team is serious about upgraded a secondary that was a major focal point of the worst statistical defense in NFL history.

This means both Harper and Jenkins could be in some trouble.

Let’s look at how his addition impacts the duo.


Roman Harper

November 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints strong safety Roman Harper (41) against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Harper was one of the worst safeties in all of football last year. Don’t believe us? According to ProFootballFocus(subscription required), he ranked as the No. 87 safety in the NFL last year.

The list graded 88 players.

Even with the addition of Vaccaro, Harper’s spot on the team may be safe thanks to the almighty dollar. According to Mike Triplett of The Times-Picayune, Harper’s contract may be enough to keep him around considering the team has already paid him a significant amount of cash:

 A league source confirmed that $2.6 million of New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper’s salary became guaranteed on the third day of the league year last month, which was reported by Obviously that makes a big difference when speculating on Harper’s job security.

Harper’s salary-cap figure this year is $7.1 million (his salary, roster bonus and $1.75 million in pro-rated portion of his signing bonus). If the Saints release him, he will count $4.35 million against this year’s cap, plus another $1.75 million against next year’s cap (the remaining pro-rated portion of his signing bonus).

This means the Saints have already invested in Harper for this season, and cutting him will actually cost the team money this year and next.

In other words, he’ll stick on the roster whether he loses the starting gig to Vaccaro or not.


Malcolm Jenkins

November 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how we mentioned ProFootballFocus ranked Harper as the No. 87 safety in the league out of 88?

Jenkins was No. 88.

As a matter of principle, Jenkins may be able to retain his starting job at free safety this season simply because there is no one better to take over, and ideally he and Vaccaro would combine to make the best starting duo the roster can offer.

The problem is this is a contract year for Jenkins, and Vaccaro’s addition could hurt his chances of coming back. He knows this, as he told John Roach of The Times-Picayune in an interview:

 “I think he’s(Vaccaro) a very versatile player. Obviously for me it brings a bit of uncertainty from a long-term standpoint, but for the short-term, this year coming up, it brings a lot of depth and a little bit of versatility to our defenses, which I think all of us can agree we’re trying to improve, so I’m really excited about the opportunity.”

If anything, this could be great news for Jenkins. He has to step up his play, and he sounds more than ready to do so. He knows Vaccaro is versatile enough to play his position as well, so expect potentially big things from Jenkins in a contract year with his potential replacement playing next to him in the secondary.


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Tags: 2013 NFL Draft Kenny Vaccaro Malcolm Jenkins New Orleans Saints NFL Draft Roman Harper

  • Ernest Tam

    Vaccaro is the real deal. Sports Science prodigy. Hopefully will translate into a long career with the Saints. Like a Sharper. Hopefully more like Lott.

  • Leighton Breard

    Look the only reason Jenkins was rated so bad because of his overcompensation and bad positioning because he had to play safety by himself he had the entire back half! Harper is always in the box or getting in the way his coverage and tackling is high school level at best! Harper is bust who Williams made use of because of his draft status then contract status! In GW’s system “aggressive 4-3″ he used Shanle and Fujita as cover OLBs “basically strong safety” and used Harper as a disguised run and pass blitzer! Now I Harper used to be able to tackle but since that’s left him he’s been useless as a safety! The only reason he had success is because the system was based around his strengths but now he is useless w/o sceming or disguising because you can’t disguise something that never works the book is out and OC’s have been running empty sets with 4-5 wideoitsand to force him to cover

    • Leighton Breard

      You can’t disguise something if the Offense knows what you can and can’t do so they just have schemes to mismatch him up with really anyone cause he is slow and has bad lateral agility so as soon as they figure out where he is the D’s screwed why do you think he struggled so bad last ur when they played soft! Now I get he can produce when the D doesn’t know what he’s doing but that’s no longer the case since Seattle in ’10 he has had a target on his back and it’s rare for them not to take full advantage of our weaklink! Our defense and especially our Offense and our QB deserve better and they’ll get better because of the way Sean was able to look at the whole team from afar and able to witness the harsh reality of our secondary or “Harper’s” decencies but we’ll see he’s been giving me nightmares since the missed tackles on the Marshawn Lynch play in Seattle in 2010

    • J. Vincent

      Disagree. He played horribly, because he is horrible. The truth hurts sometimes….Move him back to corner and let Bush or AQ play back there, how could they possibly be worse?