Richard Sherman wasn’t a free agent for long. Just one day after the Seattle Seahawks released the three-time All-Pro cornerback, Sherman agreed to a three-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team confirmed the signing on Sunday.
The deal will reportedly pay Sherman $39 million over three years with a $5 million signing bonus. It’s got multiple escalations built in for this season.
Richard Sherman’s deal includes a $5M signing bonus, plus $2M base salary, $2M in 46-man roster bonuses, $1M playtime incentive and $3M Pro Bowl incentive in 2018. So #49ers get protection, and Sherman gets upside to beat his #Seahawks deal if he plays well. Win-win.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 11, 2018
That could end up being an impressive haul for a player who acted as his own agent and negotiated the deal in a matter of hours.
Fun nugget from Sherman-49ers signing today.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) March 11, 2018
A five-hour negotiation w/ Sherman representing himself in room. Rare deal where player goes head-to-head with team execs. @RSherman_25 knew the intricacies of his contract. Deal was hammered out over five hours. @nflnetwork @gmfb
It’s an exciting addition for San Francisco, but there are questions about how much Sherman has left to give. The Seahawks opted to save $11 million instead of bringing him back for the 2018 season, probably due to a serious injury suffered in 2017 coupled with a 30th birthday coming this March.
In 105 career games for the Seahawks, Sherman tallied 32 interceptions and 104 passes defensed. He has long been one of the league’s shutdown cornerbacks, fiercest competitors, and outspoken leaders. The 49ers will hope they get more of the same in 2018 and beyond.
What does Richard Sherman bring?
When healthy, Sherman is a lockdown cornerback who transforms a defense and takes the opponent’s best wide receiver out of the game. At 6’3, 195 pounds, Sherman has the length to play tight press coverage and win any jump ball.
He isn’t the fastest cornerback, but he uses the sideline well and is among the smartest players in the league, so he rarely gets himself out of position.
In the nine games he appeared in 2017, Sherman held opposing quarterbacks to a 75.5 passer rating when throwing his direction. It was the first time in his career that the number was over 70, but was still top 25 among cornerbacks who played at least half of their team’s snaps. From 2012 to 2014 — when Sherman first burst on to the scene — his opposing passer rating never topped 50.
Age and injuries can be unforgiving at cornerback — a position that relies heavily on athleticism. But Sherman’s greatest attributes have been his film study, instincts, and size, so he may be a player who is able to overcome a lost step.
But Sherman brings more than just the ability to close down a receiver. Despite being labeled as a selfish distraction for much of his career, Sherman has drawn rave reviews for his role as a leader and great teammate.
I admittedly don't have as much experience covering the NFL (I'm calling you old, Dave), but I never saw a player who did as much peer-coaching as Sherman. https://t.co/vnfXh6E9F7— Stephen Cohen (@scohenPI) March 9, 2018
Richard Sherman mentored and tutored Shaquill Griffin into a starting #Seahawks cornerback opposite him as a rookie last season. Spent hours during, after practices working with him https://t.co/FRsgxK21zM— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) March 9, 2018
Sherman will supply San Francisco with a mentor who can help Ahkello Witherspoon and any other additions reach their full potential in the 49ers’ secondary.
How much does Sherman have left in the tank?
The concern about the signing — and the reason the Seahawks were so willing to part with Sherman — is the fact that end could be near.
Cornerback is a young man’s game and the numbers for Sherman were already in decline before he suffered an Achilles tear in November. That’s about as serious an injury any player can suffer and could have an impact on the speed and explosiveness of Sherman moving forward.
It doesn’t have to be a career-altering injury. Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles during the 2012 offseason at age 29 and still managed to return later in the year. He followed that with a Pro Bowl season in 2013 with 10 sacks.
Former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith also suffered an Achilles injury late in his career and returned a year later to record 70 receptions for 799 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.
Sherman also underwent a second surgery in January to clean up bone spurs — tacking on a little extra time to his recovery. According to Schefter, the 49ers expect Sherman to be healthy and ready for training camp. But how well he recovers in the long-term from his pair of surgeries will determine whether or not the addition was worth it for the 49ers.