Roman Harper

Roman Harper Mulling Future

It does not appear as if free agent safety Roman Harper has generated any interest on the open market, but the 34-year-old says that he is still mulling his NFL future and is in no rush to make a decision as to whether he wants to retire or continue playing. Harper said, per Herbie Teope of the Times-Picayune, “[a]s a family, we haven’t really decided on it yet, so one good thing is that I have time. I’m in no hurry to make a decision.”

Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper (41) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Harper, whom the Saints selected in the second round of the 2006 draft, made a name for himself as a hard hitter and proficient tackler, which helped to mitigate his struggles in coverage. He spent his first eight seasons in New Orleans before signing with the division-rival Panthers in 2014, and he was fairly productive in his second and final season in Carolina in 2015, as he started all 19 of the team’s games (playoffs included) that season while grading 53rd out of 89 qualifying safeties per Pro Football Focus.

However, his return to New Orleans last season was less than triumphant, as he started just four games and posted a career-low 22 tackles. But with the start of the regular season still over three months away, there is still time for an opportunity to present itself. Meanwhile, Harper is enjoying the freedom that not being under contract at this point in the season has afforded him, as he has had the opportunity to attend the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp and travel.

Given that the Saints drafted safety Marcus Williams this year and signed Rafael Bush in free agency, it does not appear as if Harper will be suiting up for New Orleans in 2017. Saints head coach Sean Payton, though, did try to recruit Harper to join him on the sidelines as a coach, though Harper is unsure if coaching is in the cards for him. He said, “[c]oaching, I just don’t know. I’ve given so much time to this game already. I definitely need to decompress when I do say I’m done and get away from it for a little while before I really make that decision on where my next chapter is.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Bucs, Colts, Luck, Saints

In a bit of voluntary OTA drama on Thursday, first-year Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter sent Austin Seferian-Jenkins off the field because the tight end “didn’t know what he was doing” (via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times). “I did send him off,” Koetter said afterward. “That’s between me and him. … You guys are making more of it than you need to.” Seferian-Jenkins ended up taking to Twitter right after leaving the field and posting some fired-up messages (click for links) while his teammates were still practicing, though it doesn’t appear that anything else will come of the situation.

Here’s more from the NFL’s South divisions:

  • With the salary cap rising each year, players who are in line for long-term deals should request specific percentages of the cap, not specific salaries, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football. One such player is Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who’s headed toward an extension and can maximize his value by focusing on the cap. As Florio points out, if Luck signs for $25MM per year under a $155.3MM cap, he’d take up 16.1 percent of the Colts’ spending ability. If the number rises to $200MM in the coming years, as it realistically could, Luck’s 16.1 percent would set him up to make $32.2MM. Agents are currently trying to make pay based on cap percentage a reality, though teams aren’t thrilled about it, multiple sources have told Florio. It isn’t a brand-new idea, per Florio, who writes that cornerback Darrelle Revis wanted a cap percentage contract from the Jets when he was holding out in 2010.
  • Earlier today, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to hint that Roman Harper will make the team when he spoke about the newly signed safety, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Rapoport notes that the veteran’s contract supports that notion, as he has a signing bonus worth $80K and $150K more in the way of guarantees.
  • The Colts are focused on developing their younger players, but they won’t rule out a veteran signing under certain circumstances, ESPN.com’s Mike Wells writes. “We’re going to look and see if anyone comes on the wire and is someone coach [Chuck Pagano] and I feel can help us, but they have to meet certain parameters,” general manager Ryan Grigson said. “Age, money and things like that. We got Mike Adams. He was still able to participate in mandatory minicamp.” The Colts added Adams in June 2014 and he went on to make Pro Bowls in 2014 and 2015.
  • The status of guard Garrett Gilkey, who hasn’t been with Buccaneers as he recovers from knee surgery, remains murky. “I don’t know,” Koetter said when asked about Gilkey (Twitter link via Auman).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Saints To Sign Roman Harper

Safety Roman Harper is re-signing with the Saints, according to his representatives at SportsTrust Advisors (Twitter link). Harper played for New Orleans from 2006-2013. Roman Harper (featured)

Harper, whom the Saints took in the second round of the 2006 draft, spent his first eight seasons in New Orleans before signing with the division-rival Panthers in 2014. The 33-year-old proved to have a fair amount left in the tank last season for the NFC champions, starting all 19 of their games (playoffs included) while grading 53rd out of 89 qualifying safeties at Pro Football Focus.

While with the Saints, Harper earned two consecutive Pro Bowl nods in 2009 and 2010 and helped the team win the Super Bowl following the ’09 season. After appearing in just five regular season games in his rookie campaign, Harper started just about every game for the Saints from 2007 onwards. In February 2014, Harper and other notable Saints vets were released to help ease the team’s cap situation. Saints GM Mickey Loomis was quick to admit that the team was not wild about having to jettison some of its most beloved players.

“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Saints GM Mickey Loomis in a statement after waiving Harper and others. “Since we acquired them, Jabari [Greer], Roman, Will [Smith] and Jonathan [Vilma] have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl…. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Rams, Saints

Bears edge rusher Willie Young acknowledged Wednesday that there have been contract extension talks between him and the team, saying (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com), “Yeah, there has been some stuff mentioned here and there, but that’s something that will be left up to my agent so I don’t get caught in the middle of it.” As of earlier this month, Young was reportedly “50/50” on whether to accept a two-year offer from the Bears. Chicago is trying to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old after he amassed a combined 16.5 sacks during his first two seasons in the Windy City, and he’s open to spending the rest of his career there. “I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago, but you know that’s not up to me; that’s up to my agent and management,” said Young, who will hit the open market next offseason if a deal isn’t reached by then.

More from the NFC:

  • Free agent safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner remain “in play” for the Rams, tweets Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News. If the Rams sign either, it won’t occur until after OTAs because the team wants to evaluate its in-house options, Bonsignore adds (Twitter link). Los Angeles hosted Whitner, a three-time Pro Bowler, in early April. Goldson, who has two Pro Bowl selections under his belt, met with the club earlier this month. PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranks Whitner as the best defensive free agent on the market.
  • Fellow free agent safety Roman Harper could rejoin the Saints, per FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez (via Twitter). Harper, whom the Saints took in the second round of the 2006 draft, spent his first eight seasons in New Orleans before signing with the division-rival Panthers in 2014. The 33-year-old proved to have a fair amount left in the tank last season for the NFC champions, starting all 19 of their games (playoffs included) while grading 53rd out of 89 qualifying safeties at Pro Football Focus.
  • Ex-Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached Harper in 2013, spoke negatively last week of his time on New Orleans’ staff. One of Ryan’s former pupils, now-Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, backed Ryan’s claim that the coordinator wasn’t running his own scheme during his final two years with the Saints. “Not to talk about New Orleans for the rest of this interview, but as a player in that system, you can see when power is taken away from a guy,” Hicks said Wednesday, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “It was evident in that situation and you saw what the turnout was because of it.” Hicks also praised Ryan as a person, stating, “I didn’t see the interview, but I do know this, I’ll forever and always have a lot of love for Rob Ryan, just because there’s nobody that’s going to shoot you straighter.”

South Notes: Bucs, Cotchery, Hasselbeck

After watching Cam Newton and the Panthers win 15 games in his division in 2015, then seeing Newton run for his life against a fearsome Broncos pass rush in the Super Bowl, Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander would like to see his team make an effort this offseason to add some more defensive players capable of wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.

“We need to get some more guys to, you know, to get some push on the quarterback,” Alexander said during an appearance on WDAE-AM 620 (link via JoeBucsFan.com). “I think that’s what we’re going to be drafting this year, defensive ends. We had great defensive ends this year, but we need a little more help. So whoever we can get, you know, we’re going to need that pressure to get Cam and, you know, try to get to the Super Bowl this season.”

As general manager Jason Licht takes Alexander’s recommendations under consideration, let’s check in on some other updates from around the NFL’s South divisions….

  • Thursday is the day that the contracts for Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and safety Roman Harper void, so both players will officially become free agents when the new league year begins, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. For his part, Cotchery said this week that he’s not sure what his future holds, but he has only positive things to say about the two years he has spent in Carolina (link via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review).
  • By the end of his 2015 campaign with the Colts, Matt Hasselbeck was pretty banged up, but the veteran quarterback said today during an appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle that he’s “strongly leaning toward” playing another season (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle). Hasselbeck is an unrestricted free agent, so if he does continue his NFL career, there’s no guarantee that will happen in Indianapolis.
  • The agent for veteran guard Jahri Evans, who was released by the Saints this week, said on SportsRadio 94 WIP today that New Orleans asked Evans to take a pay cut to remain with the team, but his client wasn’t willing to do that for the second consecutive year (Twitter link via Matt Moscona of ESPN New Orleans). Evans signed a new contract last April that reduced his salary for 2016.

Contract Details: Edelman, Meriweather, Harper

Here are a few more contract details on deals recently signed by free agents:

  • In addition to including a $5MM signing bonus, Julian Edelman‘s four-year deal with the Patriots features yearly base salaries of $1MM, $2.25MM, $2.5MM, and $3MM, with various roster bonuses and workout bonuses making up the rest of the $17MM total. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweeted the details, and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com presents them in chart form.
  • Fitzgerald notes that Brandon Meriweather‘s one-year pact with the Redskins includes a $145K signing bonus, the only guaranteed money in the deal.
  • Fitzgerald also provides the details on Roman Harper‘s new deal with the Panthers, which is technically a five-year contract. The pact includes three voidable years to help spread out the cap hit.
  • Jamon Meredith‘s two-year contract with the Buccaneers is worth $2.7MM, with $350K in guaranteed money and up to $750K available in playing time incentives, according to Aaron Wilson (via Twitter).
  • The contract Sherrick McManis agreed to sign with the Bears will be a minimum salary benefit deal, confirms Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter).

Panthers Sign Roman Harper

TUESDAY, 1:46pm: The Panthers have officially announced the signing of Harper, via a press release.

SATURDAY, 2:21pm: Roman Harper and the Panthers have agreed on a two-year deal, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter). The deal will be worth $4.5MM and include a $1.5MM signing bonus.

The former Saint will help fill in the safety position that was vacated when Mike Mitchell signed with the Steelers earlier this week.

The 31-year-old Harper only started five games for the Saints in 2013, and became the odd man out when the team signed Jairus Byrd to pair with Kenny Vaccaro at safety.

FA Visits: Woodley, Munnerlyn, Browner

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen were out to dinner with edge defenders LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck Wednesday night with the Raiders, and things are moving in the right direction with both players, says Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Here’s more from around the NFL on free agent visits:

  • While it sounds as if Woodley’s meeting with the Raiders went well, the ex-Steeler is on his way to Tennessee to meet with the Titans today, tweets Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com.
  • Panthers free agent cornerback Captain Munnerlyn visited the Vikings last night and also has appointments planned with the Jets and Buccaneers, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
  • After reaching an agreement yesterday with ex-Buc Darrelle Revis, the Patriots will host another free agent cornerback for a visit today, according to Mark Ockerbloom of Fox 25 Boston, who tweets that Brandon Browner will meet with the team.
  • Defensive lineman Anthony Spencer is visiting the Redskins, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.
  • The Panthers brought free agent defensive back Roman Harper in for a visit, writes Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.
  • Free agent linebacker Darryl Sharpton is meeting with the Titans today, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
  • The Lions are hosting free agent safety James Ihedigbo for a visit, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, who notes (via Twitter) that Ihedigbo has a history with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

Panthers Tops In “Dead Money”

Thanks in large part to last season’s trade of Jon Beason, the Panthers have $17.8MM in “dead money,” more than any team in the league, according to ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert (full chart here). “Dead money” is defined as cap space consumed by players no longer on the roster, whether they retired, were released or traded. The numbers will fluctuate as rosters continue to evolve, but listed below are the five teams with at least $10MM worth of “dead money” at present time, including the players accounting for most of the sunk costs:

At the other end of the spectrum, six teams have less than $1MM in “dead money”: Jets, Rams, Buccaneers, Colts, Seahawks and Bengals.

NFC North Notes: Raji, Vikings, Harper

ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde continues his position-by-position outlook of the Packers by delving into Green Bay’s defensive line and linebackers. With regards to the defensive line, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport recently reported that the Packers would try to remake the unit with smaller and more athletic players, which DC Dom Capers has historically preferred. If the team does go in that direction, it could simply let unrestricted free agents B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, and C.J. Wilson–all of whom offer more size than speed or athleticism–find a new employer. The biggest name of that group, of course, is Raji, whose rejection of an $8MM/year offer last fall suggests that he is unhappy with his role in the Packers’ scheme and that he is ready to move on. In any event, Green Bay is looking at a great deal of turnover on the defensive line, and it remains to be seen if they will add depth to the unit via free agency, the draft–the Packers have used a high pick on a defensive lineman in each of the past two years–or both.

As far as their linebackers are concerned, the big question the Packers face is what to do with Mike Neal. Neal was a revelation in 2013, moving from defensive end to outside linebacker and thriving in that role. While that was good news for Green Bay last season, Neal, an unrestricted free agent, is well-positioned to receive a significant offer from another club this season. With 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry still an unproven commodity at this point–injuries have shrouded each of his first two years in the league–the Packers may have no other choice but to retain Neal, lest they face another season with Clay Matthews as the only legitimate play-maker in the linebacking corps.

More notes from the NFC North:

  • As noted by our own Rob DiRe last week, Vikings GM Rick Spielman wants to add another two picks to the team’s 2014 draft. ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling thinks the best way to do that would be for Minnesota to trade back from its No. 8 overall selection. Such a move would be especially tempting if the draft’s top quarterbacks are off the board at that point. Goessling adds that, even if the Vikings could not get a top-flight QB with the eighth overall pick, they would be wise to grab Clemson’s Sammy Watkins if he’s still available. Watkins could team with Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, and Adrian Peterson to form a formidable group of offensive weapons.
  • ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein believes the top priority for the Lions this offseason is at wide receiver, a belief reinforced by the recent release of Nate Burleson. Tight end would also be a high priority, particularly if the Lions cannot re-sign Brandon Pettigrew. As noted last week, Detroit’s outlook at tight end beyond Pettigrew is uninspiring.
  • Although ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright opined last week that the recently-released Roman Harper would probably cost too much for the Bears to sign, he does note that Harper would still be a viable option if another team does not spend big on him.