Money talks. Money also walks.
That’s why Richard Sherman is strolling out of Seattle.
He is gone.
As anticipated, the Seahawks released their superstar cornerback on Friday after 117 games, 111 starts, seven seasons, four Pro Bowls, three All-Pro selections, two Super Bowls, the franchise’s only NFL championship--and growth into one of the most outspoken personalities in Seattle sports history.
The only NFL team he’s known, the team that transformed him from a ticked-off, fifth-round draft choice into a national superstar, saves his $11 million salary for 2018 against this year’s salary cap.’
As the news was breaking Friday morning, Sherman posted on his Twitter account a reminder to all--including his doubters, “ppl talking to me like I’m slowin’ down”--what he has accomplished.
Sherman told Albert Breer of NFL Network: “They wanted the financial flexibility going into free agency but expressed that they wanted me to return and will be in contact.”
But that’s unlikely. A four-time Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl champion at the second-toughest position to play in sports, behind quarterback, will likely attract in free agency that begins Wednesday a rich salary the Seahawks cannot and will not match.
The franchise- and region-rattling move comes three weeks before his 30th birthday. It’s not just Sherman’s age and recent injury history that has turned him into an ex-Seahawks at least a year sooner than planned. The now-fully-transitioning Seahawks need cap space to make other foundational moves necessary this offseason--fixing the rushing offense, getting more pass rushers, and so on--to return to the playoffs they missed this winter for the first time in six years.
Sherman’s cap charge became the team’s primary target to increase spending flexibility. He was scheduled to have the second-highest base salary on the team this year; only franchise quarterback Russell Wilson at $15.5 million is higher.
And the Seahawks weren’t going to release Wilson.
The Seahawks gave indications they may have considered keeping Sherman at a much more team-friendly cap charge for this year--that is, at a substantially reduced salary. But the proud, ever-confident Sherman would have had to become a different man overnight to agree to a sizable pay cut in a contract year, without finding out what he may be able to get from another team first.
A league source confirmed to The News Tribune that officially Sherman failed an exit physical examination players routinely get at the end of each season, so his designation on the official NFL transactions is waived-failed physical. His physical was at the end of last season after a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2017--and it turns out Seattle tenure--in early November. He recently had a second Achilles surgery on the other foot.
Per article 45 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, Sherman, who turns 30 this month, is entitled to up to $1.15 million in injury-protection payments from the Seahawks for being released after failing a team physical. Seattle will not have to pay that money or have that as a cap charge this year if signs with another team. Sherman is now a free agent, free to negotiate while representing himself without an agent with any team, to play for it in 2018.
Both sides had been pushing for quick resolution, before the end of this week, after Sherman came to the realization earlier in the week that the Seahawks didn’t have him in their plans for 2018 or beyond.
The Seahawks need to know how much cap space/buying power they have for their many needs ahead of the free-agent negotiating period that begins Monday and the buying market that opens on Wednesday.
Sherman wanted his release, if it was going to happen, sooner than later. He can now begin shopping for a new team at a salary for this year that he hopes will, combined with his injury settlement with Seattle, approach that $11 million he had been scheduled to earn for the Seahawks.
Hello, New England?
As if Seahawks’ fans aren’t torn enough over a Sherman shopping trip that, at least during the team’s best days, they’d never thought they’d see.
Sherman started every Seahawks game at left cornerback from Oct. 30, 2011, midway through his rookie season, through Nov. 9, 2017, the night he tore his Achilles in Arizona in what is now his final game for Seattle. His five full seasons as a starter--2012 through ‘16--were the best five years in franchise history.
His long arms, smarts and preparation to the point of knowing what the offense was going to do made him the definition of a shutdown cornerback. Sherman effectively eliminated one-third of the field; league and Super Bowl most valuable player Aaron Rodgers simply refused to throw his way in Packers-Seahawks games. Seattle’s other 10 defenders had to defend only two-thirds of the field as the Seahawks went to the playoffs in every one of those five years. Sherman was an All-Pro in 2012, ‘13 and ‘14. The latter two of those seasons ended with the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
He also was a charismatic, at-times outspoken voice in a Seahawks locker room full of personalities. Remember in November 2014 when he and good friend Doug Baldwin, a teammate of his at Stanford and with the Seahawks, mocked the NFL for its media and marketing policies during a press conference?
Sherman also was a leader on the field and off it for teammates. He mentored and tutored Shaquill Griffin into a starting cornerback opposite him as a rookie last season. Sherman spent hours during and after practices working with Seattle’s third-round pick from Central Florida. And now it will be Griffin, not Sherman, starting at corner for the Seahawks in 2018.
The 2013 season ended with Sherman leading the NFL with eight interceptions--and his Seattle defense smashing record-setting legend Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl 48.
Today for the Seahawks, that seems like a lifetime ago.
The Seahawks are also believed to be releasing veteran defensive back Jeremy Lane on Friday. That move has been coming since late October when benched him from the cornerback and nickel defensive-back jobs, then they tried to trade him to Houston only to have him return because he failed the Texas’ physical. Cutting Lane saves Seattle $4.75 million against the cap this year, assuming it is a pre-June 1 designation.
This story will be updated throughout the day.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle