The Saints decided not to franchise Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper, instead opting to let him test the waters of free agency, a move Sharper himself scoffed at after stating the Saints were willing to let him go after not placing the franchise tag on him.
Well the Saints probably don’t want him to go but surely they were not willing to pay Sharper 6.5M either, an amount that he would have been guaranteed on a one year contract if they had indeed franchised him.
Now the top suitor for his services this season, the Chicago Bears, will look to get first crack at the 34 year old safety as Sharper has made the trip to Chicago to sit and talk with the franchise and it’s head coach Lovie Smith.
Most likely Sharper is only testing the waters to see what type of money he can command from another club for a basis for negotiation to re-sign with the Saints, only time will truly tell where the chips fall.
If Sharper is swayed by the Bears he will return to the NFC North division where he has spent 12 years of his career with the Green Bay Packers followed by the Minnesota Vikings.
It will also mark his return to a Cover 2 defensive scheme, one which Sharper himself admits limits his ability to make plays and do what he does best, pick off passes. That alone coupled with his desire to stay with a true Super Bowl contender in the Saints make the odds of the Bears landing him slim to none.
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allows Sharper to quarterback the secondary and “lurk” in an effort to make plays on the ball. This style of defense allows Sharper to play aggressive and trust his instincts which was a major factor in him joining the Saints prior to the 2009 season.
It worked out so well in fact that Sharper co-lead the NFL with nine interceptions, score three touchdowns and set a new NFL record for return yardage from picks with 376.
Sharper however has gone on record stating his desire to play for a team with a strong and loyal fan base and also his level of respect for head coach Lovie Smith.
"“Coach Lovie Smith, I have the most respect for him,” said Sharper via the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve played against him for so many years and seen how he’s built that program in Chicago. I’m a firm believer in what he’s doing up there. I love the Chicago fans. Wherever I go, I want to go to a great fan base, and Chicago has one of the best fan bases of all the teams in the NFL"
He also had a little to say about the Cover 2 scheme the Bears run.
"“As far as playing the Cover 2, I think the numbers as far as interceptions won’t be as high as compared to the system I played in under Gregg Williams. I’m able to play a lot more areas of the field. In the Cover 2 system, you’re in one spot most of the time and if the ball doesn’t come your way, you can’t get to the ball. But you can be successful in the Cover 2."
Sharper needs to garner more than just interest from the Bears to drive his price tag up in New Orleans, at this point it seems far fetched that he won’t end up back with the Saints barring a deserved pay raise on a two year deal.
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