All-Pro safety Darren Sharper decided Monday to return to the New Orleans Saints and try for a Super Bowl championship repeat next season. And he reportedly took less money to do it.
"He's real motivated to win another Super Bowl," Sharper's agent, Joel Segal, said after his client agreed to a one-year deal. "It's rare to have that opportunity, and he's very excited."
Sharper's one-year deal with the Saints is worth $1.5 million in base salary, with a $75,000 signing bonus and up to $1 million total in roster bonuses, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.
Sharper earned $1.7 million in 2009, but concerns about his knee and his age limited the market of teams interested and his earning potential. The Jacksonville Jaguars also pursued Sharper, and the Florida Times-Union cited a team source in reporting that the team offered the safety a more lucrative contract than the Saints did.
But Sharper decided to return, saying in a text message to The Associated Press: "Just wanna tell you I'm extremely happy to be a Saint again. Now we can work on winning another world championship for the city of New Orleans."
Sharper intercepted nine passes last season, returning three for touchdowns of 99, 97 and 42 yards, to help the Saints win their first Super Bowl. His total of 376 interception-return yards set an NFL single-season record, breaking the mark of 358 yards set by Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed in 2004.
Sharper leads all active NFL players in interceptions with 63, which places him in a tie with Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott for sixth on the league's all-time list. Sharper's 11 career interception returns for TDs rank second to Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson's 12. Sharper's 1,412 career interception-return yards also rank second to Woodson's 1,483.
"We have said since the end of the season that we would love to have Darren back in a Saints uniform for 2010, and I'm glad we've been able to make that happen," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement released by the team. "Darren was an integral part of our Super Bowl-winning team, and we look forward to having him back."
Soon after agreeing to terms with the Saints, Sharper posted a note on his Twitter account, saying: "To the entire WHO-DAT Nation, guess what? I'M BAACKK!"
Sharper will enter his 14th NFL season out of William & Mary. He spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him in the second round in 1997. He then played four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the Saints last season.
Sharper, 34, had minor arthroscopic surgery after the Super Bowl to alleviate swelling in his left knee, which intermittently bothered him during the second half of the 2009 season. He also made several offseason appearances in New Orleans to soak in post-Super Bowl celebrations.
The agreement with Sharper represented a fresh dose of good news for the Saints, who for the past few days have dealt with the fallout from a civil lawsuit alleging that the team covered up a senior staff member's theft of Vicodin prescription pills.
The Saints have denied those allegations, but the Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to The Associated Press on Sunday night that the agency was aware of the allegations and an investigation was pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.