Packers likely to release Sharper soon
By Pete Dougherty
Darren Sharper’s career with the Green Bay Packers could end within the next few days.
New General Manager Ted Thompson has asked Sharper, a fixture at safety for the past seven seasons, to take a substantial pay cut. But Sharper has balked at accepting about $2 million, or about one-third of the $6 million he’s scheduled to make in salary and roster bonus.
Sharper is due a roster bonus of $2.6 million on Friday, so if the sides don’t work out an agreement before then, the Packers appear set to release him at an immediate salary-cap savings of about $3.4 million.
A compromise seems unlikely because Sharper in January ruled out taking a pay cut, and because Thompson and Sharper’s agent, Joel Segal, had a fruitless face-to-face meeting at the NFL scouting combine late last month. Segal couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
If Sharper thinks he can get substantially more on the open market, he can force the Packers’ hand and become a free agent. He might immediately become the top safety on the market, depending on how teams view his age and injury history.
At 29, Sharper is reaching an age at which NFL players at speed positions can begin to decline quickly.
Last season was Sharper’s worst since his nightmare 1999 season under coach Ray Rhodes. He led the Packers with four interceptions, but had just 77 tackles and nine passes defensed — the latter one fewer than inconsistent rookie Ahmad Carroll.
Sharper strained the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 7 last year. He missed only one game, but played the second half of the season at less than full strength.
The top safeties available in free agency are Miami’s Arturo Freeman and Sammy Knight, and Indianapolis’ Idrees Bashir.
Jacksonville is allowing safety Donovin Darius, its franchise player, to seek a trade, and New Orleans reportedly is considering cutting Tebucky Jones after signing free agent Dwight Smith from Tampa Bay.
One team that might have an interest in Sharper is Atlanta, because former Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell runs the Falcons’ defense. With Donatell as the Packers’ coordinator, Sharper went to two Pro Bowls.
If the Packers cut Sharper, they’ll likely go into the 2005 season with two new starters at safety.