The day after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks, cornerback Richard Sherman signed a three-year contract with his previous rival San Francisco 49ers. Here are my initial thoughts on the 49ers’ most controversial signing in recent memory.
Well, that didn’t take long. Just hours after we asked if the San Francisco 49ers were about to sign Richard Sherman, we got our answer. After a five-hour negotiation between Sherman — who acts as his own agent — and 49ers executives, including general manager John Lynch and chief contract negotiator Paraag Marathe, a three-year contract was signed.
The success of this deal hinges on whether Sherman can return to his pre-injury form.
Sherman is still recovering from a November 2017 surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles, and a second surgery on his other leg earlier this year. Sherman — who already relied on technique to overcome a lack of speed — can’t afford to lose a step, and turns 30 prior to the beginning of the 2018 season. If Sherman can recover fully and return to his previous Pro-Bowl form, the 49ers would have a bargain for one of the premier playmakers at the cornerback position:
Since 2011, no player has more interceptions (32) or passes defensed (99) than Richard Sherman, and no player with 300+ targets in coverage has allowed a lower completion percentage (47.4) or passer rating (50.9)@RSherman_25 pic.twitter.com/HQ1JOEhdmX
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 7, 2018
Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan believe the 49ers will be a playoff-caliber team in 2018.
In signing Sherman — and previously attempting to trade for 32-year-old cornerback Aqib Talib — Lynch and Shanahan targeted expensive, high-upside cornerbacks on the wrong side of 30. The 49ers aren’t rebuilding for the future — they are looking for short-term solutions at positions of need. Lynch and Shanahan are aiming for a playoff run this season. Expect the Niners to continue to be aggressive in free agency.
The deal was completed — and completed quickly — specifically because Sherman played for the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers wanted Sherman because he is the prototypical cornerback for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s defensive system. Since Sherman is so familiar with the system from his years in Seattle, he will be a valuable resource for the members of San Francisco’s young secondary. The Niners wanted a deal in place before Sherman could test the free-agent market, and they made it happen.
Meanwhile, Sherman was so quick to sign with San Francisco because they are the biggest rival of the team that attempted to force him to take a pay cut, which he rejected out of hand. Circle the two 49ers-Seahawks matchups on your 2018 calendar — there will surely be fireworks.
— John Lynch (@JohnLynch49ers) March 11, 2018
Sherman’s contract — like the vast majority of contracts negotiated by Marathe — is team-friendly.
When the news of Sherman’s contract first broke, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported the three-year deal was worth up to nearly $40 million:
Richard Sherman tells me his 3-year deal is worth up to $39.15M. https://t.co/irXPXGT8f3
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 11, 2018
Soon, additional details emerged, thanks to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
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
If Sherman is unable to play in 2018 due to injury, the 49ers will be responsible for less than $1 million of his prorated signing bonus (his signing bonus is actually $3 million, not $5 million) and $2 million of his base salary, for a total of $2.6 million for salary-cap purposes. If Sherman passes his physical by the first day of training camp, he will earn an additional $2 million. If Sherman plays this season, but not at a top level, he will also earn a portion of his $3 million in bonuses and incentives — depending on his roster status and playing time — for a total cap hit of under $7.6 million. If Sherman returns to his previous All-Pro form, he could earn an additional $3 million, for a total potential cap hit of $10.6 million for the 49ers in 2018.
The Sherman signing doesn’t preclude the 49ers from signing an outisde cornerback in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Don’t be surprised if the 49ers draft a second-day cornerback to groom — similar to last year’s selection of third rounder Ahkello Witherspoon — in next month’s 2018 NFL Draft. A team can never have too many corners, and with Sherman’s age and injury issues, the 49ers would be wise to have a backup plan in place for this season, and a long-term plan for the future.
Niner fans will get over it.
Given Sherman’s polarizing personality and his history of disrespect toward the 49ers organization, it’s understandable that many fans are less-than-pleased with this signing. However, Niner fans’ disdain for the former Seahawk will gradually disappear once the season begins — provided Sherman returns to form. History has shown that fans will eventually open up to a player who helps the team win games — even if he used to be the enemy.
It also helps to remember that these are men playing a game — and while they may be enemies for 60 minutes each Sunday, they rarely are after the final whistle, which is reflected in this Twitter exchange between Sherman and 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk:
Hahahaha all good brother! What happens between the lines stays between the lines
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) March 11, 2018
Once the Faithful see current players embracing Sherman, the fans will follow suit.
Seahawks fans won’t get over it, at least not any time soon.
Locked on 49ers host Brian Peacock put it best Saturday morning, prior to the signing:
— Brian Peacock (@BDPeacock) March 9, 2018
He was right, and not just about Seattle fans. Sherman’s former teammates — including wide receiver Doug Baldwin — aren’t too keen on the signing either:
Well.. this sucks.
— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) March 11, 2018
Still, some of the best reactions are those from Seattle Seahawks fans, both on Twitter, and on Reddit:
So, if you were feeling down this weekend because your favorite team signed your least favorite player, just remember, it could have been worse; Seattle Seahawks fans lost their favorite player to their least favorite team.
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