March 18, 2010

First pick of Haslett-Mueller era, DE Darren Howard, cut by Philadelphia

The Saints have been pursuing veteran defensive linemen since free agent opened: Jamal Williams, Leonard Little, and James Hall. Why not add a relatively familiar face to that list in former Saint Darren Howard?

Howard was the second pick of the second round in the 2000 NFL Draft, the highest pick the Saints had left after the Ricky Williams trade the year prior. The Saints were thrilled to add him, as the pass rusher from Kansas State had somehow slipped out of the first round.

Howard was an immediate success in New Orleans, teaming with Joe Johnson, Norman Hand and LaRoi Glover to be the strongest unit on the team as the Saints were propelled to their first playoff victory in franchise history.

Collecting 44.5 sacks in six seasons, Howard left the Saints after the dismal 2005 season for Philadelphia. He started all 16 games for the Eagles and helped them into the divisional playoffs where he would make his last career start in the Superdome in 2006.

In that game, Howard recovered a key late Reggie Bush fumble near midfield that gave the Eagles offense one last shot. The Saints defense was able to shut down McNabb and the Eagles with less than two minutes left, and the Saints offense ran out the clock on a 27-24 victory.

Since then, Howard hasn't started a regular season game but moved into a situational pass rusher role. Playing both end and tackle, the 6'3, 260 pounder collected 17.5 sacks over the past three seasons as the first defensive lineman off the bench for the Eagles. He collected 6.5 sacks in 2009, not a bad number and more than any Saint except for DE Will Smith (13.0).

These stats on IgglesBlog indicate Howard's decline past age 33 however, and help explain why the Eagles made the move to acquire Seahawks DE Darryl Tapp to replace Howard.

We'll see if he draws the Saints' attention.

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