Richard Sherman bet on himself to leave Seattle on his terms.
He’s already cashed in.
And he didn’t go far. Just down the coast, to a team he’s beaten, taunted and haunted for years.
Less than 24 hours after the Seahawks officially waived-injured Richard Sherman, the three-time All-Pro cornerback agreed on Saturday evening to a three-year contract with Seattle’s NFC West-rival San Francisco 49ers. It includes $5 million guaranteed and could be worth up to $39 million if Sherman plays all three seasons of the deal, according to multiple reports.
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He’ll be playing twice next season against the only NFL team he’d known from when Seattle drafted him in the fifth round in 2011 until Saturday. He’ll also be playing in Santa Clara 14 miles from where he played in college, at Stanford, through 2010.
And Sherman will now be playing in front of 49ers fans whom he called in mediocre in 2014 for leaving their Levi’s Stadium early during a Seahawks’ win there that season.
Time--and potentially $39 million--will smooth that over down in the Bay Area.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissaro reported Sherman’s contract includes a $5 million signing bonus, $2 million base pay this year, $2 million in roster bonuses, a $1 million bonus based on playing time and $3 million bonus if he’s selected for the Pro Bowl.
The signing bonus and base salary alone are likely better than what the Seahawks would have ever renegotiated down to with Sherman for 2018.
Pelissaro also reported if Sherman makes the Pro Bowl for the 2018 season another $16 million in base salary for the 2019 and ‘20 seasons becomes guaranteed. That’s a cha-ching clause for Sherman. He’s made the Pro Bowl in four of the last five seasons. The only exception was last season, when he tore his Achilles tendon in early November.
Sherman signing with another team absolves the Seahawks from having to pay any injury-protection money to Sherman in the wake of their waived-injured designation of him Friday. That could have been up to $1.15 million, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Sherman knows 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, from Selah’s time from 2011-13 as a defensive assistant on Pete Carroll’s coaching staff in Seattle. Selah’s final season in Seattle was Sherman’s second straight All-Pro year when he led the NFL in interceptions--and when he turned away the 49ers in the NFC championship game by tipping Colin Kaepernick’s pass back to Seahawks teammate Malcolm Smith for a game-winning interception. Niners fans still remember Sherman taunting San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree after he tipped that pass from him, and for giving the choke sign to Kaepernick following one of the most famous plays in Seattle sports history.
Smith is now a 49ers linebacker. So is another former teammate of Sherman’s in Seattle, defensive end Cassius Marsh.
Sherman, representing himself with no agent, visited 49ers headquarters earlier Saturday. Apparently they didn’t let him leave without agreeing to a deal. San Francisco’s medical staff obviously is satisfied with the progress he’s made from surgeries on his torn Achilles then another, recent one that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said was minor on his other Achilles and ankle.
He’s said he expects to be working out on a treadmill this month and back running on a field by the summer. Training camps begin in late July.
Sherman, who turns 30 this month, bet on himself in shopping as a free agent instead of listening to Seattle’s idea of taking a big pay cut to play this year for the only NFL team he’s known up to now. In less than 24 hours after becoming an ex-Seahawk he made it known he’d also gotten preliminary interest from the Titans, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Buccaneers and Packers. In other words, a quarter of the league.
So forget those words from Sherman Friday that the Seahawks told him they would be interested in talking him about coming back to play for them if he doesn’t get an offer he likes in free agency. Before he even plays a down for the 49ers, he’s already reportedly guaranteed about half of what the Seahawks decided they were not going to pay him this year, $11 million. And, unlike for Seattle where he was to enter the final year of contract, Sherman for San Francisco potentially has two more years beyond this one and $34 million more to earn.
Sherman was looking to sign with a team that has an outstanding if not elite quarterback and is already a playoff contender. He doesn’t have time for rebuilds, not at his age and with the fact he wants to set himself this year for one more big-guarantee, multi-year contract in free agency this time next year.
The 49ers appear to have that quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, who was such a revelation winning the last five games of last season following his trade from New England that San Francisco gave him a record-setting extension this offseason. And the Niners had the cap room ($70 million as of Saturday morning) to offer Sherman the money for 2018 he would like and still continue shopping at other positions.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, now have another hole in their roster: the left-cornerback spot Sherman had locked down from October 2011 until this past November. Byron Maxwell ended up taking the injured Sherman’s place there the last month and a half of the 2017 season. He is on his way to becoming a free agent when the market opens Wednesday. Maxwell played well at times after Seattle re-acquired their 2013 starting right cornerback during last season. At age 30 he will be seeking a multi-year deal for far more than the veteran minimum of $775,000 he played for last year.
Seattle has apparently made a decision on DeShawn Shead, who has played three positions in the Seahawks’ secondary in his career. He is due to become a free agent Wednesday after playing the final two games of last season in his return from reconstructive knee surgery in January 2017. Seattle’s KJR-AM radio reported Saturday Shead’s agent said the Seahawks have decided to release Shead to let him test free agency next week instead of re-signing him before that.
Seattle did that last year at this time when it did not tender Shead an offer for 2017 as a restricted free agent. After he met with the Buffalo Bills about a possible contract Shead re-signed with the Seahawks for last season.
DeAndre Elliott is a restricted free agent to whom Seattle will have to tender a contract offer for 2018 to keep.
And, of course, the Seahawks have April’s draft. They currently own eight picks (at 18th overall in the first round, then one in the fourth round, four in the fifth and two in the seventh). And with Sherman’s release, the waiving Friday of defensive back Jeremy Lane and this week’s trade of Michael Bennett , the Seahawks have $17.95 million more in cap space to buy a cornerback.