Who Will Be the Next Darren Sharper?

Jed Jacobsohn

Which so-called "over the hill" veteran is out there that has just enough left in the tank to help put New Orleans over the top and into the Super Bowl again?

In early 2009, Darren Sharper had reached the end of his four-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings and was coming off a year where he really started to show his age. His offers in free agency were few and far between. Almost three weeks into the signing period, Sharper finally signed a one-year deal worth around $1.2 million (No one on this list will come THAT cheap, but still).

We all know how that story ended. But who could be the next "past his prime" veteran that comes in and makes an impact for the New Orleans Saints?

These guys don't necessarily have to be a safety or even in the secondary in general. All that matters is that the "experts" have said that they are on the back nine of their careers, and that they have nothing much to offer a new team on the field.

Most of these are obvious picks (Ed Reed, Charles Woodson), but what about the other guys that no one is really paying any mind to? Those are the guys who could help put the Black & Gold over that hump and back in the Super Bowl.

Let's check 'em out.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Cleveland

Watson was a part of the last New England Patriots team that won a Super Bowl back in 2004, but his stats would suggest that he could be getting better with age. In his three years in Cleveland from 2010-12, he almost equaled the amount of receptions and yards that he racked up in six years in New England. Oh yeah, he's a pretty good blocker as well.

His blocking ability, towards the end of his Patriots run, was the cause of his receiving numbers dropping a bit. He was used mainly in running situations at that time in his career, but his most important on-the-field asset has been his hands. Some might say his durability might be a red flag, but he has played in 16 games three out of the last four years.

He would be bringing just about everything to the table that was being lost on the team's tough decision to let David Thomas go.

Ed Reed, S, Baltimore or Charles Woodson, S, Green Bay

Reed would be a great addition. There's no doubt in my mind, but will bringing back a local raise the expectations a little too high for a defense (not the team as a whole) that will be just trying to get comfortable in it's new scheme for the second straight year? If you add Reed into the mix, the expectations for this defense from the fan base would be at Top 10 or bust.

I get that. With a playmaker like the Destrehan, La. native in hand, why wouldn't you expect that? The main thing that is brought up when discussing Reed is his durability issues, but, appearing in two full seasons and postseason the past couple years should dispel any of those concerns. My major concern, though, would be that Reed might be the popular choice, but would he be the right one?

Woodson, despite last year's collarbone injury, had never gone any long stretches where he had missed games while he was in Green Bay. The fewest games he appeared in as a Packer was 14. He is just as much as a playmaker as Reed, but he would allow Malcolm Jenkins to play the position he feels most comfortable with in free safety.

Moving to strong safety seemed like it was going to be a smooth transition for Woodson until the injury came. When Woodson was a free agent after the 2005 season, the Saints were in the running for him, but they chose to go with a quarterback with injury concerns instead of a cornerback. (It worked out for both parties.) Imagine if Mickey Loomis would have found a way to get the ex-Raider and join him with Mike McKenzie. That would have given the Saints a secondary of Woodson, Jabari Greer, Sharper and Roman Harper in 2009 with a couple guys named Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins as nickel and dime corners.

If I had to chose for one year, maybe two, I'd go with Woodson over Reed.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia

I know what you're thinking. Asomugha isn't a free agent. You'd be right on that end, but his enormous cap figure is going to cause the Eagles to ask him to restructure or release him. My money is on the latter. Philadelphia has enough to deal with then to cater to a player that has had two bad years with them.

There is one big factor that is making me think that this would be a fantastic move, at the right price, and that factor is the big caveman that the Saints just hired to lead their defense. Asomugha had his best years playing under Rob Ryan in Oakland, and it seems like he could use that fire again. Ryan could be that man to wake a sleeping giant and have Asomugha look a little like his former self for a year or two in the Black & Gold.

If you were looking for a local tie-in, Nnamdi is from Lafayette, La.

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