Richard Sherman’s phone started ringing off the hook once the Seattle Seahawks released the three-time All-Pro cornerback earlier this week. Several teams inquired about his services as Sherman has been one of the top defensive backs in the NFL over the past four or five seasons. One of those teams were his former enemy in San Francisco. So “The Sherminator” switched from friend to foe with division rival and now-former team in Seattle, as the four-time Pro Bowler reached an agreement with the 49ers for nearly $40 million over the next three years. This is like Roger Clemens pitching for the Yankees after being an All Star with the Red Sox in his prime.
Sherman played college ball at Stanford University as did his new General Manager, John Lynch. The former “Legion of Boom” leader is very comfortable in the Bay area and I’m sure Lynch and his deep pockets really made Sherman feel welcome back at home. Sherman was actually scheduled to meet with about five or six other teams but decided when he got to San Francisco that he didn’t need to look anywhere else. Clearly the star corner is very happy in his new city!
The Niners didn’t hesitate for a second to get Sherman signed as they have plenty of money to go around under the NFL’s new salary cap of $177.2 million. The Niners franchise can sign quite a few more free agents in addition to Sherman as they have roughly $60 million more left to spend on free agents. They also have the 9th pick in this year’s NFL draft. They could use their first round selection as a bargaining chip or they can use it on the best player available of need. This would preferably be a top wide receiver or a speedy defensive end. Speaking of need, the 49ers needed to address their secondary situation and Richard Sherman will be a solid staple at corner in a Cover 3 style defense he’s familiar with. Robert Saleh is the 49ers current defensive coordinator and coached Sherman while he was with the Seahawks a few years back. When I put out my predictions for team needs, cornerback was right up at the top of the list for San Francisco. Personally, I like this move a lot! But it does come with some baggage . . .
The 49ers still have some holes to fill especially on defense. Having Eric Reid at safety is as close as you can get to Earl Thomas, so I expect Sherman and Reid to work very well together in Saleh’s defensive scheme. A big key to the success of the secondary is the pass rush. That’s part of the reason why they were one of the worst teams against the pass last season. Hence signing an All Pro corner Richard Sherman on Saturday. Sherman’s ability to lock down one side of the field is essential to the success of the defense. It allows the D to scheme and come up with more exotic blitzes as they clog up the backfield.
The organization will need to look around and find someone to pressure the quarterback. The team is hoping that big name players like Elvis Dumervil, DeForrest Buckner, and sophomores Rueben Foster and Solomon Thomas can live up to the hype and get the opposing quarterback off his mark.
Why be concerned about Sherman taking up roughly $13 million of the 49ers salary cap during the next three seasons? The stud corner will turn the magic number 30 at the end of March. So most will say he’s at the twilight of his career and playing cornerback after reaching that numerical milestone usually signals an upcoming rapid downfall. However, players take much better care of their bodies nowadays and John Lynch wouldn’t have signed the perennial Pro Bowler unless he knew Sherman had plenty of gas left in the tank.
Perhaps the biggest concern would be the fact that Sherman tore his achilles in the 2017 season and may not be at full strength when week one rolls around. The 49ers organization says they expect him to be good to go by training camp, but you can bet the team will proceed with caution as they won’t want to lose such a special player by rushing him back on the field.
Sherman will bring leadership, attitude and a championship ring into the 49ers locker room. With a group full of young athletes, Sherman can provide tutelage with his words and show how it’s done on the field. He’ll have to face his former team twice a year now and to the 49ers advantage, their new toy can give the team some inside advice on how the Seahawks like to attack offensively and defensively. The 49ers closed out the 2017 campaign winning five games in a row. The offense began to move the ball up and down the field as Jimmy Garoppolo breathed new life into the Niners offense. With the acquistion of Richard Sherman, a high draft selection and money to spend, it’s easy to see how the 49ers can be true playoff contenders in the 2018 season.