The Minnesota Vikings Miss You, Darren Sharper

Dan NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 30:  Darren Sharper #42 of the New Orleans Saints intercepts the ball against the New England Patriots at the Louisiana Superdome on November 30, 2009  in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When the Minnesota Vikings signed Darren Sharper in 2005, he made a splash right away.

In his first game with the Vikings, Sharper had nine tackles and an interception that he returned 88 yards for a touchdown.

Sharper proceeded to finish the season with nine interceptions, two touchdowns, and 16 passes defended. It was one of the best seasons of his career.

The Green Bay Packers had let Sharper go after eight productive seasons, because they wanted to re-structure his contract and Sharper did not.

Sharper was banged up in 2005, so the Packers felt his career was on its way down. They did not seem too concerned about letting him leave.

However, Sharper came to Minnesota with a chip on his shoulder. He signed for less money than the Packers were paying him and proceeded to play great football.

Sharper let his play do the talking and was incredibly effective with the Vikings for three seasons from 2005 to 2007.

Then, in 2008, Sharper had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, prompting the Vikings to let him go. The Vikings figured Sharper to be on his way down at age 33 going on 34.

What many thought to be a fine decision turned out to be disastrous for the Vikings.

Currently, the Vikings are paying Madieu Williams $33 million over six seasons to play Sharper's old position of free safety.

Williams played just nine games in 2008 due to injuries. In 2009, Williams has picked off zero passes and broken up just four passes in 16 games. This despite being one of the highest-paid safeties in football.

While I never understood the Packers letting Sharper go in 2005 after a solid season, it made sense to me in 2008 when the Vikings let him go. It seemed like Sharper's abilities was finally starting to regress.

I was very wrong and so were the Minnesota Vikings.

Darren Sharper was paid just $1.7 million by the New Orleans Saints in 2009 to intercept nine passes, score three touchdowns, and break up another 15 passes.

Madieu Williams was paid over $5 million to do a whole lot of nothing for the Vikings' secondary.

Williams has not been the ball hawk the Vikings had hoped for. He is constantly late to plays and rarely keeps receivers from making plays on the ball.

The Vikings made the same mistake the Packers made in 2005. They thought Sharper was on his way out. He was done, washed up, too old. Again, Sharper has let his play do the talking.

As the Vikings face another explosive offense this week, they will be missing Mr. Sharper as he ball-hawks for the New Orleans Saints.

On behalf of the Vikings fans that doubted you after 2008, let me apologize, Darren Sharper. You are still one of the best free safeties in the business.