- Darren Sharper, New Orleans
Who is he? Da most hardest hittin’ sthafety in da league. Oh, besides that. Darren Sharper is certainly in the twilight years of his caree – he’s 35 years old and his speed has left him, but his veteran savvy can’t be denied. Sharper had a true renaissance year in 2009 in his first year with the Saints, making the Pro Bowl with 15 passes defensed and 9 interceptions which he returned for 3 touchdowns and a 41.8 yard average. Last year, Sharper flirted with the Jaguars briefly during free agency, which was likely a move to pressure the Saints into a deal. He had microfracture surgery and sat behind the emerging Malcolm Jennings for much of the year in New Orleans.
How’s the market look? Let’s just say there’s a few less teams clamoring for Sharper’s services than Nnamdi Asomugha’s.
What they’re saying: Sharper himself is estimating there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll be back with the Saints. He’s looking for a starting job somewhere, but if that doesn’t materialize, he’s content to go back to New Orleans to backup Jennings.
Jaguars Prognosis: Sharper would very much fit the “patch” mold that we first saw Gene use with Tra Thomas and Torry Holt in 2008 – extremely well-regarded veterans on the downslope of their career and willing to sign an incentive-laden deals. Sharper’s price tag is not going to be high and I think he’d be willing to come to Jacksonville, thinking there’s a good chance he wins the starting job. The question comes down to the team doctors and if they think Sharper can stay upright for the year – if they say he can and he acquiesces to a bargain/incentivized deal, I think this is exactly the type of signing Gene would prefer to make to secure the free safety position for 2k11.
- Brodney Pool, New York Jets
Who is he? Pool is yet to really establish himself since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2005 draft, but turned in a quietly impressive year in his first season with the Jets. He played more snaps at safety than any other player on the team (and at both positions) and was pretty darn impressive in coverage, 4th highest of all safeties on ProFootballFocus – besides his one interception and 8 passes defensed, Pool was only thrown at 26 times in his 765 snaps, holding opponents to 11 receptions and 107 yards, less than 10 yards/rec.
How’s the market look? Pool does not look to be a hot commodity on the market and if he is, teams are being real hush-hush about it.
What they’re saying: The Jets have made it clear they aren’t looking to spend much at the safety position, so the only way Pool’s coming back is on the cheap.
Jaguars Prognosis: It’s all there – decent enough skills to “patch”, no trouble in his past, and what looks to be a good value contract. I’m gonna say the Jags will at least fail him out – this is the type of player I’d expect Gene to sign.
- Tom Zbikowski, Baltimore
Who is he? Zbikowski definitely had a productive offseason, sparking up a nice little professional boxing career, knocking out his first opponent less than a minute into the match and going undefeated, with four wins. He did a nice job in the first six games of the season subbing for the injured Ed Reed, before having a back injury of his own that kept him out the rest of 2011. Though not spectacular, Zbikowski was equally solid against the run and pass. He took every snap of the first five games and most of the snaps in the sixth and was only thrown at three times and only missing one tackle. He also has some return ability.
How’s the market look? It looks like we’ll have to see about Zbikowski’s free agent status once the details of the new CBA are released, but he was given a Restricted FA tender by the Ravens, which will likely not exist this year. There doesn’t seem to be a noteworthy market for him.
What they’re saying: Zbikowski has said that he will seek provisions to allow him to continue boxing in the offseason in his next contract and the Ravens have been very supportive of that thus far. Other than that, Zib isn’t saying much about football and the Ravens and other teams aren’t saying much about him.
Jaguars Prognosis: Another “patch”-type signing with decent skill and upside that would come at a reasonable price. If not Zbikowski or Pool themselves, I’d expect a safety of a very similar mold to be signed by the Jaguars this year.
- Andrew Hofheimer