Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Deal with Jags, Sharper; Guaranteed Money Apparent Snag for Team, Veteran Safety

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Deal with Jags, Sharper; Guaranteed Money Apparent Snag for Team, Veteran Safety

Article excerpt

Byline: GENE FRENETTE

After a courtship period that lasted about 24 hours, the Jaguars failed to come to an agreement Thursday with free agent safety Darren Sharper, who left Jacksonville without a contract and will presumably continue exploring his options, a team source said.

Sharper, 34, was a key figure last season as the New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl. He had nine interceptions and three touchdown returns and is believed to be seeking a significant raise from the one-year, $1.7 million contract he received last season. It's still possible the Jaguars might sign Sharper, but a lot hinges on whether both sides can reach a compromise on guaranteed money.

The Jaguars are seeking to upgrade a pass defense that ranked 27th in the NFL in 2009. The team's secondary is the only defensive unit that is virtually unchanged from a year ago. Though Sharper's age is a concern, his veteran leadership and instincts are something the Jaguars covet to help mentor a young secondary, especially 2007 first-round pick Reggie Nelson, who struggled much of last season.

One possible stumbling block in signing Sharper is factoring which side has the most leverage. With the season more than four months away. Sharper is looking to recoup money after playing way above his salary level in 2009. Though Sharper turns 35 in November, former Raines High safety Brian Dawkins set a high bar last year at age 35 by signing a five-year, $17 million deal with the Denver Broncos.

Publicly, Sharper has expressed a desire to return to New Orleans, but Saints general manager Mickey Loomis only wants him back at a certain price and was willing to let him test the free-agent market. Sharper waited two months into free agency to schedule his first visit because he was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. No matter who signs him, Sharper will likely not be cleared for full organized team activity sessions until June.

The Jaguars view Sharper as a short-term solution, either one or two years, for their secondary. Because this next contract might well be Sharper's last big payday, he wants to see if other teams might be willing to pay a lot more than New Orleans. …

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