New Orleans Saints veteran strong safety Roman Harper could be a cap casualty this offseason, since he is set to make $2.35 million next season with a roster bonus of $650,000 that will be paid out on the 13th of March. Harper is signed through 2015, and he will make $2.7 million in base salary in 2015 with the same roster bonus set-up. The 31-year-old actually took a bit of a paycut by signing this deal, but the Saints are running up against the cap and absolutely must make some cuts in order to get under. Harper may still see himself as a good player, but most of us remain unconvinced, especially with the Saints a lot better at safety due to the success of rookie Kenny Vaccaro.
Even though it’s unlikely for Harper to take yet another paycut just to stay in New Orleans, it’s clear that he’s fiercely loyal to the organization that drafted him out of Alabama with their second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Before this season (a knee injury caused him to play in just nine games), Harper played in at least 15 games and recorded at least 89 tackles in a season ever since his second year in the league. Harper has been a productive member of the Saints organization for a while, but his coverage skills have always been poor. While he isn’t terrible, Harper also isn’t more than just a veteran third safety at this stage in his career, since his experience and blitzing definitely don’t make up for his big struggles in coverage.
Harper has been in this league long enough to know that he’s on the chopping block, but he loves the Saints and clearly wants to stay. He told Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez in an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio’s “Late Hits”, quote courtesy of the Times-Picayune’s Katherine Terrell, ”Hopefully I’ll be back. I love New Orleans. I don’t want to go anywhere. But it’s a business first. They have to make decisions and so do I. Everybody has to do what’s best for them in their own situation.”
I hope things can work out and Harper can continue playing for the Saints, but I honestly doubt that’s the case. While he only received less playing time this year due to an unfortunate knee injury and is arguably better than Malcolm Jenkins, the Saints desperately need to shave off cap space and Harper is expendable.