New Orleans Saints agree to terms with free agent safety Darren Sharper

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune March 18, 2009 5:27PM

The Saints agreed to terms with former Vikings defensive back Darren Sharper.

The Saints have agreed to the long-anticipated deal with free agent safety Darren Sharper. Terms of the deal were not available.

Sharper, 33, will give the Saints a veteran presence on the back end of their defense. They are hoping he’ll also bring some of the dynamic playmaking ability that made him a four-time Pro Bowler in his 12-year career with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.

Sharper leads all active NFL players with 54 interceptions, though he only had one last season with the Vikings – the lowest total of his career.

“We’re looking forward to bringing in a veteran of his experience,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said.

“He’s a guy that obviously we spent a lot of time on, and we’re excited that we could add him to the mix on defense to help improve our secondary play,” Payton said. “He is a player with extremely good ball skills. We’ll see if he handles that (quarterback of the defense) role for us. But certainly his experience is going to help.”

The Saints had been talking with Sharper since the first weekend of free agency, and they brought him in for a visit more than two weeks ago. But there was no sense of urgency from either side to get a deal done as the negotiations played out.

Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, Sharper likely came at a reasonable price. The Saints targeted Sharper as their top choice to fill their most glaring need, but they were intent on not overspending to fill the void. They will still look hard at the position in next month’s draft.

“Darren had multiple suitors, but clearly throughout the process, the Saints were his first choice,” said Sharper’s agent, Joel Segal. “He sees a strong opportunity to win and is excited by the personnel and the coaching staff.”

Sharper, who is in Hawaii at the NFL Players Association meetings, was not available for comment.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement: “We are pleased to announce the addition of Darren to our team. Darren is an accomplished veteran player that brings a wealth of knowledge and ability to our secondary and has always possessed outstanding instincts and playmaking skills.”

Although he’s no longer in his prime, Sharper has remained a consistent playmaker, starting every game for the Vikings over the past three seasons. The 6-2, 210-pounder has missed only nine games in his 12-year career. He has nine forced fumbles to go with the 54 picks.

Sharper should immediately be penciled in as a starter for the Saints, though incumbent Kevin Kaesviharn will have an opportunity to compete. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said this week that he won’t get a real feel for his personnel until he sees them on the field in summer minicamps and OTA sessions.

“I’ve always liked Darren from afar,” Williams said Monday. “Whatever happens, I’ve got to feel comfortable about who the quarterback of our secondary is going to be. Our middle linebacker (Jonathan Vilma) and free safety are going to be the two (defensive) quarterbacks on the football field and they are going to make all the checks and audibles, so we’ve got to do a good job in finding the right guy.

“Is he already here? Could possibly be. I don’t know our guys yet and until I go through the storm of the offseason and how hard we’re going to work this offseason with them, until I learn more about them, yeah, we’re still looking there. It’s a very key spot. If Darren ends up being a Saint, I’ll be happy.”

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