Darren Sharper said after the season that he'd like to return to the team, but defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier isn't so sure that's going to happen.
In the same offseason (2005) that the Vikings traded wide receiver Randy Moss and signed then-free agent Pat Williams to a three-year contract, they also signed Sharper away from the Green Bay Packers, inking him to a four-year, $14 million deal. Since then, the Vikings have extended Williams' contract, but Sharper is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 27 for the first time since donned Vikings purple.
"I want to (come back)," Sharper told reporters after the season. "I love the guys. That's the exact word I'm using because I do, I love the guys here in the locker room. A lot of good guys here. We'll see. It's the nature of the NFL and business to never know, especially when you have a contract run out. So you never know. It's still up in the air. We'll see what happens. I would like to still be here and have the same locker come the offseason, but you never know how things are going to go.
Frazier has talked to Sharper since then and believes that the safety is ready to test the free-agent waters.
"I encouraged him to let him know that we really liked what he did for us this season. The fact that he wants to test the waters, I don't blame him," Frazier said. "At the stage he's at in his career, I would too. So he's got to do what he's going to do and we'll see how it all plays out."
The fact that Sharper is 33 years old and had only one interception in 2008 might not generate the same kind of interest in the free-agent market he experienced when he left the Packers, but Frazier still believes the safety has some good years remaining in the league.
"He's still a very good player with years left. We'll see what the market says," the defensive coordinator said.
Sharper said he definitely feels he has a couple more years in him, but there will be a variety of factors that determine where he might end up in 2009 – from contract length, the potential to remain a starter, his role in the defense and coaching.
"That's four choices, so I'll have to go with 'E,' all of the above. All of those factors come into play," he said. "I hope my main priority would be sitting in this chair (in front of his locker at Winter Park) still, so we'll see if that works out. But all of those things factor in, especially when you're going into your 13th year."
Frazier didn't think Sharper's feelings about the Vikings defense limiting his chances to make interceptions have anything to do with his desire to test the free-agent market.
"That's just Sharp talking. He'll say that about any system that he's not getting 13 picks a season. That's just Darren Sharper," Frazier said with a smile.
The four-time Pro Bowler has 54 interceptions in his 12-year career, leading all active NFL players, and is tied for fifth in NFL history with eight interceptions returned for touchdowns.
But with the Vikings signing Madieu Williams to a six-year, $33 million free-agent contract last offseason and drafting safety Tyrell Johnson in the second round last year, the team likely already has a replacement if Sharper were to leave.
But might Sharper return to the team as a backup to Williams and Johnson?
"(Johnson) played some quality snaps for us this past season so we'll just have to see how it pans out. Tyrell did a great job when he was in there when Madieu was out (with a neck injury). We expect him to take that step in the second season. We'll see how it all plays out," Frazier said.
Or how about this for an intriguing – albeit unlikely – scenario: Sharper returning to the Packers? He laughed at that suggestion.
"That might be a situation where you have to decide if you want to go back. When you're a free agent, you just want to have people that want you to play for them so you're open to going anywhere," he said.
Free-agent expectations for Sharper
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