Saints working to keep Howard
Saints working to keep Howard
Defensive end among 11 players who will become free agents
Friday December 26, 2003
By Jeff Duncan
Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Superdome could be the final game in a Saints uniform for several players who are in the final years of their contracts.
Of the 11 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the season, defensive end Darren Howard is the top offseason priority for the front office.
Howard signed a five-year, $3.98 million contract July 17, 2000. The final year of that deal was voided when Howard met playing-time incentives during his first three seasons.
Howard, a four-year starter who has a team-high 29 sacks since 2000, said he would like to return to New Orleans but isn't sure what the future holds after Sunday.
"If it's up to me I'll be back," Howard said. "But it's not up to me."
Saints officials have held negotiations with Howard's agent, Gary Wichard, throughout the second half of the season. They have offered Howard a four-year deal that is believed to include a $7 million bonus, according to league sources.
"I'll start thinking about that (new contract) after the season," Howard said. "You never know what will happen. I never thought that the guys I played with my first year -- La'Roi Glover, Joe Johnson and Norman Hand -- would all be gone after three years. One thing I won't be is surprised."
BOUMAN CLEARED: An alleged sexual assault case in Minnesota, which identified backup quarterback Todd Bouman as a suspect, has been dropped because of a lack of evidence, ending a 10-month investigation.
The alleged incident occurred at a Minnesota Vikings charity benefit in Lake Mille Lacs, Minn., last February when Bouman was a member of that club.
"We presented all the facts to the grand jury . . . they determined there was not enough evidence to go forward," Wade Kish, Mille Lacs County assistant attorney, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week.
Bouman declined comment.
"There's nothing to talk about," he said.
In a separate incident at the same benefit, former Vikings running back Ted Brown was charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
COPY 'BOYS: Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said his club copied a page from the Saints' game plan against Philadelphia before Dallas' second meeting with the NFC East Division rival Eagles on Dec. 7.
"I thought that they did a good job running straight at Philadelphia," Parcells said Wednesday. "We had already played Philadelphia once, and I think maybe we gave them a little bit too much credit. I thought that the Saints showed us some things that we maybe didn't think was available as they quite apparently are."
BROOKS ROLLING: Quarterback Aaron Brooks has ascended to the No. 2 spot in the NFC passer rankings with an efficiency rating of 89.2.
For the first time in his career, he has produced three consecutive 100-plus ratings in games against Tampa Bay (101.8), the New York Giants (138.8) and Jacksonville (100.3).
In that span, Brooks has completed 68 of 103 passes (66 percent) for 830 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He has not thrown an interception since the second quarter of the Week 10 game against Atlanta, a string of 200 passes.
"He's had an outstanding season," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He has really responded well since the Tampa game."
LEWIS SIDELINED: Reserve wide receiver Derrick Lewis tripped in the locker room Thursday morning and injured his toe. Saints officials were not sure how severe the injury was, but it is expected to sideline Lewis for the Cowboys game. That further weakens the wide receiver position, which already is without Joe Horn (shoulder).
"I don't know what happened with Derrick, he either broke it or dislocated it," Haslett said. "We'll know more on Friday."
ETC.: Running back Deuce McAllister returned to practice Thursday. Defensive lineman Willie Whitehead and Horn did not practice and are expected to miss Sunday's game. . . . Haslett especially was pleased with Thursday's practice, calling it one of the sharpest in recent weeks. . . . Brooks showed off one of his Christmas gifts Thursday: A silver remote control convertible car that he navigated with delight through the post-practice locker room. Haslett said his top gift was a car treatment kit from his three children. . . . Kicker John Carney was the third recipient of the Jim Finks Good Guy Award for cooperation with the media. Local media covering the team voted on the award, and Carney edged McAllister and Jerry Fontenot. The award is named in honor of the former general manager of the Saints who died in 1994 and was known for his cooperation with the media. Past winners are Wally Williams and Horn.
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