Packers dump Sharper

As expected, the Green Bay Packers terminated the contract of veteran safety Darren Sharper today to avoid paying him a $2.6 million roster bonus. The Packers also waived tight end Sparky Hamilton.<p>

Sharper was due the roster bonus on Friday and was scheduled to count $8.6 million against the team's salary cap this year. Sharper's agent and the Packers discussed restructuring Sharper's contract, which had two years remaining, but could not come to an agreement. The Packers were will to pay Sharper about $2 million this season, but he feels he can earn more as an unrestricted free agent.

No sooner than he was out of town, Sharper was flirting with the enemy. He had a visit scheduled with the Minnesota Vikings for Friday. The Vikings appear to be the cream of the NFC North after beefing up their defensive line with Pat Williams, adding cornerback Fred Smoot and landing linebacker Napoleon Harris in the Randy Moss trade. Adding Sharper would be another prized catch for the Vikings.

While there's a chance the Packers could sign Sharper to a more cap-friendly deal later, both sides appeared to have cut the ties.

"It's time to move on. In a way it feels like a breath of fresh air for my career. I feel like it's a chance for someone to get to know what I can do," Sharper told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, meanwhile, told the Green Bay News-Chronicle: "With the present realities of the NFL and restrictions and in terms of monetary consideration, I think it will make it difficult."

By releasing Sharper, the Packers cleared about $3.4 million under their salary cap. Green Bay is about $6 million under the $85.5 million cap.

Sharper, 29, started at free safety the last six seasons. He ranks fifth on the Packers' all-time interceptions list with 36 and in 2004 became one of four players to lead the team in interceptions at least five seasons, joining Bobby Dillon (seven), Willie Wood (five) and LeRoy Butler (five).

During an injury-plagued 2004, Sharper played in 15 regular-season games, with 13 starts, and registered 77 tackles (68 solo). Plagued by a knee injury that took away his mobility and added weight for a role in Bob Slowik's blitzing defense, Sharper's 77 tackles were the fewest in his seven years as the starter.

He snared four interceptions among eight passes defensed, forced two fumbles and recovered another. He also started the team's Wild Card playoff game vs. Minnesota.

The Packers' second-round selection in the 1997 NFL Draft, Sharper sustained a sprained left posterior cruciate ligament vs. Dallas (Oct. 24) and missed the following week's game at Washington (Oct. 31). Limited to passing situations vs. Minnesota (Nov. 14) and at Houston (Nov. 21), he returned to the lineup vs. St. Louis (Nov. 29).

Hamilton, 23, originally signed with the club Jan. 19 as a reserve/future free agent.

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