Shaper Flying Into the Nest?
By Lance Epstein
Free agent safety Darren Shaper has told NFL.com's Frank Tadych that he wants to play free safety for a "playoff caliber team" next year. Surprisingly (at least to most NFL experts) he listed the Eagles as one of the teams that he would like to play for, so he must think they are contenders in 2010 with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.
Shaper, 34 (be 35 during next season), does not fit exactly what the Eagles plan this offseason. If the Eagles go out and sign the five-time Pro Bowl safety, then the youth movement and cost cutting of aging veterans that the Eagles have been doing this off-season goes out the window.
However, in 2009 Sharper had one of his better years and has not shown signs of decline. This past year, he had nine interceptions, three defensive touchdowns (one against Kolb in his first ever start) and 71 tackles.
Also, his veteran leadership helped anchor the New Orleans defense to a Super Bowl trophy. In previous seasons, the weakness of the Saints had been the spotty defense, but his ball-hawking skills along with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams change the culture on that side of the ball.
The acquisition of Sharper would bring an immediate presence that the Eagles defense sorely lacked in 2009. Last year, the Eagles leadership was non-existent after Brian Dawkins left via free agency and Stewart Bradley went down with a torn ACL before the season kicked off. Sheldon Brown even commented on the team having chemistry issues. If Shaper is wearing a midnight green uniform this fall, he could go along way into improving those areas.
Unfortunately, do not expect the Eagles to reel in Sharper. Last offseason the Eagles did not want to pay Dawkins, who was 35-years old, so why would they give the big money to another aging veteran.
Furthermore, the Eagles have three players that they feel confident about playing free safety. If Marlin Jackson is completely recovered from his torn ACL, Andy Reid and Howie Roseman have high expectations for him. In addition, rookie starter Macho Harris both has another year under his belt. Although if he does not improve, they could try Quintin Demps there again.
Ultimately, with the safety class being very deep and talent in rounds one through four of the 2010 NFL Draft, expect the Eagles to go in that direction.