The New Orleans Saints informed free safety Darren Sharper on Monday that they will not apply the franchise tag to him, according to a league source.
Sharper is coming off a huge 2009 season in which he led the Saints with nine interceptions -- three for touchdowns -- and helped the franchise win its first Super Bowl championship. Sharper could become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn't re-sign with New Orleans by March 5.
Sharper, who signed a one-year, $1.7 million contract with the Saints last offseason, would have been due $6.455 million next season if tagged. NFL teams have until Thursday to apply the tag.
Sharper, 34, has been selected to five Pro Bowls during a 13-year NFL career spent with the Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. He's tied with Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott for sixth place in NFL history with 63 interceptions, and he has picked off nine passes in a season three times.