Scouting report: Harper is a two-time Pro Bowler who was a cornerstone of the Saints’ defense for most of the past eight years at strong safety. But he became more of a part-time player last season and was released last week -- in large part because he was due $3.15 million in salary and bonuses.
Harper, who was drafted in the second round out of Alabama in 2006, made his mark as an attacking blitzer and run stuffer. His 17 sacks are the most in the NFL by any defensive back since 2006. He also has 14 forced fumbles, which puts him among the top 10 for defensive backs during that span. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010.
Harper has struggled at times in deep pass coverage. And he missed seven games in the middle of last season with a knee injury. But he finished strong -- playing especially well in the playoff loss at Seattle -- and he could still be an impact player if used to his strengths.
Projection: I think Harper still has some gas left in the tank and should land somewhere as either a starter or a rotational guy. He’ll fit best as a true strong safety who plays closer to the box in run support, occasionally blitzing and covering tight ends in short space. If used the right way, I still see Harper as an asset. And his experience and leadership will only enhance his value.