As of the end of the 2008 season, Vikings starting safety Darren Sharper has become an unrestricted free agent.
Sharper had somewhat of a down year last season as his stats dipped a little from previous years. While Sharper was still up there in tackles, his pass defending skills appeared to drop a little.
Since Sharper joined the Vikings in 2005, he has been averaging more than five interceptions and nearly seven passes defended each year.
In 2008, the aging Sharper only had one interception and five passes defended. Sharper appeared to have lost his playmaking ability in the secondary. In fact, teammate Madieu Williams had more interceptions in only nine games last season.
Sharper’s contract expired after the Vikings lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs, and the 33-year-old safety appears to be looking for a new job in 2009. It seems that the Vikings will not re-sign the four-time All-Pro safety, and instead will let his vacancy be filled by promising young safety Tyrell Johnson, last year’s second-round draft choice.
With Sharper in the free-agent market, more than a few teams will likely offer him a chance to start for them. A rumor that recently surfaced was that the New Orleans Saints may just be one of those teams.
The Saints appear to be looking for some help in the secondary, as they ranked 23rd against the pass in 2008, and fourth-year safety Josh Bullocks did not look like the answer for the Saints last season.
Sharper, the current active career interceptions leader, would more than likely bring some life to a Saints saftey crew that only notched three total interception in 2008.
While the Vikings could still look to sign a safety in the offseason, it will likely be someone who would take a smaller salary than Darren Sharper would want.