It's no secret the Miami Dolphins have a glaring need at free safety. Along with nose tackle and wide receiver, free safety help is at the top of the team's wish-list this off-season.
They were hoping to snag him in free agency after releasing incumbent starter Gibril Wilson on March 5. After that didn't pan out, the Dolphins turned to Ryan Clark as plan B.
Clark re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after a two-day visit with the Fins brass. It looked like they had him when he came into town, but after the dust settled it appeared Miami was simply Clark's ploy for leverage over his former team.
Clark got his wish for a pretty new deal where he really wanted to be, but the Dolphins have still gone without their wish for a new safety.
Midway through the second week of free agency, there isn't much left on the market at what was already a thin position.
There has been talk of the Dolphins going after St. Louis Rams restricted free agent Oshiomogho Atogwe, but it doesn't bode well that such pursuit hasn't yet happened.
Atogwe was tendered at the lowest possible level, meaning Miami wouldn't have to give up any draft picks to St. Louis if they were to sign him. But unless the Dolphins put a sizable contract on the table, its unlikely the Rams would refuse to match the offer.
With Atogwe unlikely to be targeted, and Rolle and Clark off the market, there hasn't been much talk of solving the Dolphins' safety issue in free agency.
But there's one name that hasn't been mentioned yet: Darren Sharper.
While with the New Orleans Saints last season, Sharper revitalized his career with 71 tackles, 15 passes defended, nine interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns. He went to the Pro Bowl and served as the anchor of the Saints defense.
Without him, its arguable New Orleans wouldn't have made their unlikely Super Bowl run. That's how much of a difference he makes.
So why isn't Miami going after him?
At 34-years-old he can't be the long-term answer at safety, but there's no denying he still has life in those legs. There aren't many guys who bring his level of tackling, ball hawking, and straight-up play-making to the table.
New Orleans appears to be his first choice for next season, but that doesn't mean his mind can't be changed for the right price. With 2010 being an uncapped year, the time is right to spend a little extra for players of his caliber.
If the Dolphins don't address this need in free agency, that means either second-year safety Chris Clemons or a rookie draft pick will likely start at free safety next season. That may turn out to be a good thing, but it's a gamble nonetheless.
If that doesn't work out, the secondary will be exposed all season just like it was a year ago.
Bringing in Sharper quells those concerns, at least for a little while. He would instantly provide a major upgrade to the unit, not to mention provide some seriously needed veteran experience.
With Sharper on board, Miami would have the luxury of bringing a draft pick along slowly rather than throwing them to the wolves on day one. That kind of pressure can crush a player; just look at Jason Allen.
The move makes sense anyway you look at it. A two or three-year deal at a reasonable cost would probably get it done.
If Miami lets themselves head into the draft with this issue, they'll be walking a dangerous line. If that draft pick doesn't produce right away, the team will have a season-long headache at the position.
On the other hand, Sharper would provide season-long relief. At the very least, the Dolphins need to explore this possibility or possibly come to regret it.
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