Thirty-six year old veteran safety Darren Sharper is saying all the right things this off-season after undergoing micro-fracture knee surgery prior to the start of the 2010 league year.
He and teammates have been workingout independently at Tulane University recently where he declared he has every intention of playing football next season.
Sharper went on in the spirit of public relations exactly as you would expect, saying that his knee was one hundred percent healed, felt great, had no swelling and that he was having no problems keeping up with the younger players. Let the window shopping begin.
Unfortunately for Darren the starting free safety position with the Saints belongs to former corner turned safety Malcolm Jenkins. Barring any unforeseen injury Jenkins will remain the starter for the foreseeable future.
Currently the NFL is locked down, no players can be signed by any team whether undrafted, restricted, or un-restricted. Free agency as we know it has been effectively wiped out due to the ongoing labor dispute, which appears more and more likely to continue farther into the off-season then expected.
For Sharper his best bet is likely to remain with the Saints next season. While he will not be the starter at safety, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is creative enough to still utilize him in the defense in a variety of ways.
Last season after his return to the lineup Sharper was stuck back at safety so that Jenkins could rotate down and cover receivers or tight ends as a corner in nickel and dime formations. Conversely Sharper did the same thing, lining up as a corner to cover slot receivers. There is still room for him on the roster.
Of course in the end what he decided to do and where he ends up will be his decision. It’s hard to imagine that even if there is a free agency period at some point that a team would be willing to pay him any more money than the Saints.
Also the list of suitors will probably not be very long, although the two teams that seemed to express the most interest in him last season could be in play. A rumored busted deal between he and the Jacksonville Jaguars surfaced right before he re-signed with the Saints, he also made a trip to meet with Lovie Smith in Chicago.