Packers, safety at standstill

The Green Bay Packers are expected to release veteran safety Darren Sharper on Friday. Sharper is scheduled to receive a $2.6 million bonus at that time and is unwilling to renegotiate his contract with the Packers.<p>

According to recent reports, Sharper has turned down Green Bay's offer to reduce his compensation for 2005 to $2 million. He has two years remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal that he signed in February of 2001. At that time, he received a $7 million signing bonus.

The Packers are only $2 million to $3 million under the $85.5 million salary cap.

Sharper's salary cap number for 2005 is $8.633 million, which the Packers feel is far above his value. Sharper, 29, was selected in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Packers. He has led the Packers in interceptions the last five seasons, but is coming off an injury. Sharper had 77 tackles and nine passes defensed last year, and was hobbled by a knee injury for most of the second half of the season.

Sharper, who has spent this off-season in Miami rehabbing his knee injury, said in a recent report that he has the same speed that he had two years ago when he made the NFC Pro Bowl team for the second time in his career.

"I was injured most of the season and I still led the team in interceptions and tied the (season) record for most touchdowns," Sharper recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "If you put me out there healthy, I'd double that output. I was in and out of the lineup the middle part of the season and when I came back I was hurt."

Sharper's agent, Joel Segal, and the Packers have met regarding restructuring the safety's contract, but have made no progress.

If the Packers release Sharper, they may pursue free agent safeties Arturo Freeman and Sammy Knight, both whom played for Miami last year, or Indianapolis' Idrees Bashir.

Also, if Sharper becomes a free agent, there is a good chance that the Minnesota Vikings, who have the most salary cap room of any team in the NFL, will try to sign him. The Vikings this week gave free agent cornerback Fred Smoot a six-year, $34 million deal that included a $10.8 million signing bonus. Minnesota is making a point this off-season to bolster its weak pass defense.

The Atlanta Falcons also might have a strong interest in Sharper. Falcons defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was in the same position in Green Bay when Sharper went to the Pro Bowl in 2000 and 2002. Sharper was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2001.

The Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars have been discussing a trade for franchise free agent Donovin Darius.

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