By Nick Shook
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Richard Sherman‘s free-agency tour began with the San Francisco 49ers, and it won’t extend beyond the Bay Area.
The veteran cornerback has agreed to a three-year deal with the 49ers worth $39 million (including a $5 million signing bonus), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Sherman was released by the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the week after the team decided it wanted to give the veteran an early start on free agency. The defensive back has been among the league’s best for the last five years, becoming a lockdown defender and face of Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary. He’s been as excellent as he’s been topical, boisterous on the field (backed up by his play) and outspoken off it.
Perhaps his most famous play of his career came in the NFC Championship Game (coincidentally against San Francisco) when Sherman tipped a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone, resulting in a game-sealing interception and ensuring Seattle’s trip to Super Bowl XLVIII, where the Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos to win the title.
Sherman has dealt with injuries as of late, suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in 2017. He’s on the path to returning, rehabbing during the offseason while visiting with prospective employers and promising he’ll be back on the field by June, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. He had a meeting scheduled with the Detroit Lions, per Pelissero, but decided one visit would be enough.
Sherman said he wants to play for a contender, and the 49ers could be one rather quickly based on the success enjoyed by the team after acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo. Sherman discussed Friday on KIRO-AM in Seattle what he was looking for in a new team.
“I want to go to a contender,” Sherman said. “I play at a high level. I’ve always been a guy that can work well with others and continue to elevate if my teammates elevate and elevate others.
“…Would I go to a young secondary that is like we were when we were younger and help them grow and help them advance? Sure, if the number looks right and the situation is comfortable for me and my family.”
That second scenario sounds a lot like the 49ers.
Armed with $66 million in cap space, 49ers general manager John Lynch was able to throw any number at Sherman. He found a fit at $39 million over three years, including a $5 million signing bonus. Sherman represented himself in contract talks, negotiating without an agent and adding intrigue to the details of his new deal.
Sherman’s contract is an incentive-laden prove-it deal — if he makes the Pro Bowl in 2018, $16 million in base salary is guaranteed from 2019-2020, per Pelissero — which offers the corner a chance to earn more than he would have in Seattle if he achieves, but also gives San Francisco protection in case he doesn’t. More details from Pelissero:
Ian Rapoport reported earlier Saturday Sherman has an affinity for the West Coast, which makes plenty of sense and helps explain such a swift signing. The Southern California native is a Stanford graduate and is familiar with Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was Seattle’s defensive quality control coach from 2011-2013, Sherman’s first three seasons in the NFL. He’ll stay in the NFC West while also avoiding having to learn a new scheme.
With Garoppolo secured and a visible turnaround from his presence, San Francisco has quickly morphed from moribund to promising. Adding Sherman to a secondary in need of a corner will only further improve their chances in 2018 and beyond.