NFL New Orleans Saints

NFL Rumors: New Orleans Saints to release starting SS?

Roman Harper

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This past season presented the NFL with one of the worst performances by a defense throughout the history of the league. Put simply, the defensive unit that the New Orleans Saints fielded was awful. One of the weakest links was strong safety Roman Harper.

With age becoming a factor and 2012 proving that his effectiveness is wavering, there’s a good chance that Harper could be released this offseason. He’s due an absurd $5.35 million in 2013, which is obviously too much for an underwhelming, aging safety.

The 30-year-old Harper was one of the biggest liabilities in coverage this past season for the Saints. Time and time again, he struggled to make plays when the ball was in the air and wasn’t the type of defensive safety net that landed him a new, $28.5-million deal back in 2011. On top of his shortcomings in coverage, Harper wasn’t any better against the run. He consistently failed to wrap up and missed too many tackles for a veteran of his experience and talent. Free safety Malcolm Jenkins’ struggles also emphasized the setbacks that Harper suffered from all year long.

What really makes Harper and his hefty contract potential targets for release is the fact that he doesn’t fit into the 3-4 defense that Rob Ryan will bring with him as the Saints’ new defensive coordinator. In the 3-4, the strong safety spot needs to be filled by a ball-hawk, something that Harper has failed to be as of late. His declining skills are the last thing the Saints need as they make this tedious transition.

If anything, the Saints will ask Harper to take a significant pay cut in order to stay in New Orleans in 2013. If that’s not an option for the veteran, there’s a good chance that he’ll be thrown into the free agent pool posthaste.

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Network Manager/NFL featured columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.