The rest of the story on Darren Sharper

So now we know why teams from the NFC East didn't fall all over themselves to sign Saints safety Darren Sharper. The 34-year-old Pro Bowler underwent microfracture surgery this offseason and it's uncertain when he'll return to the field, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.


SharperIt was previously reported that Sharper underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, which is considered far less serious than microfracture. Sharper, who had nine interceptions for the Super Bowl-champion Saints in '09, took his first free-agent visit to Jacksonville last week before agreeing to a one-year deal with the Saints on Monday.

Although some media reports speculated Dallas had an interest in Sharper, Cowboys sources told ESPNDallas.com that wasn't the case. And if Sharper indeed had microfracture surgery, it's much easier to understand the tepid interest he drew in free agency. After releasing starting safety Ken Hamlin, the Cowboys have a big need at the position. If the season began today, the inexperienced Alan Ball would be the starter.

I always believed that Sharper would eventually re-sign with the Saints, although I didn't realize what role an injury might play in the process. In some cases, we're seeing teams instruct players to go out and see how much they're worth on the open market. When the player secures an offer from another team, his former team can then decide whether it wants to match. If you need an example, look no further than what the Steelers did with safety Ryan Clark.

Clark visited the Dolphins and apparently secured an offer before abruptly signing with the Steelers. Some columnists in South Florida have cited this an an example of the Dolphins' boorish behavior toward players. But I doubt that general manager Jeff Ireland or Bill Parcells did anything to chase Clark back to Pittsburgh -- outside of providing him with some leverage.

Teams are now trying to do a better job of finding out whether a player is truly willing to move before making an offer. Otherwise, they end up negotiating on behalf of two teams. In Sharper's case, I think Jerry Jones and Eagles general manager Howie Roseman were probably onto the Saints. And you'd have to think the reported knee injury also played a major role.

Everyone fired up to get the Alan Ball era started at Valley Ranch?