Who Will Be Richard Sherman’s Future Employer?
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The era of the Legion of Boom has come to an end. The Seahawks boasted one of the league’s five top defenses in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) from 2012 to 2016 thanks in large part to their dominant secondary, but Richard Sherman was released on March 9 with a failed physical designation. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are all kinds of special, but Sherman’s rise to stardom helped reshape the way the league felt about taller cornerbacks and redefined what constituted a star corner.
Sherman played in 105 consecutive games to start his career, but the soon to be 30-year-old now faces a plethora of injury questions after undergoing surgery on both his ruptured right Achilles and left foot. Still, one of the league’s premier talents at corner is now free to sign with any team that makes him an offer. Let’s check out the odds for which team will have Sherman on its roster in Week 1 of the 2018 regular season.
- Field +255
- 49ers +390
- Seahawks +635
- Raiders +810
- Patriots +1045
- Texans +1140
- Chiefs +1520
- Vikings +1710
- Chargers +2100
- Colts +2500
- Jets +2700
- Panthers +3100
- Cowboys +4565
- Packers +5010
- Falcons +5680
A lot of teams need cornerbacks. The field consists of 18 teams and is currently the odds-on favorite. The destinations with the best odds unsurprisingly populate the west coast, where Sherman has lived his entire life. The out-spoken corner is his own agent, and he’s already given plenty of clues as to what he wants in his future employer. Let’s take a look at what we know from Sherman himself and attempt to widdle down this list.
“I Want to Go to a Contender”
Unsurprisingly, Sherman isn’t interested in joining a team in the midst of an all-out rebuild. Among our 18 field teams, the Eagles, Saints, and Steelers are arguably the group’s best contenders and also have a need at cornerback. Still, they have next-to-zero available cap space (pending Drew Brees‘ expected contract). Fringe contenders such as the Buccaneers, Lions, and Broncos have a bit more cap room — the Lions specifically secured Sherman’s second reported visit — but the field doesn’t initially seem to offer much value given the mediocre odds.
The contender credential also eliminates the Jets and Chiefs from the conversation. Obviously the former team is further from relevance than the latter, but it seems unlikely that the Chiefs will take on Sherman given their failed experiment with Darrelle Revis and choice to part with a younger/more-talented corner in Marcus Peters.
Eliminated: Field, Chiefs, Jets
Remaining: Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders, Patriots, Texans, Vikings, Chargers, Colts, Panthers, Cowboys, Packers, Falcons
“Would I Go to a Young Secondary? . . . Sure, if the Number Looks Right”
Sherman’s legacy is intact with years of dominance and a Super Bowl victory. He needs to get paid wherever he’s going to land. This raises questions for:
- Cowboys: Every big free agent gets linked to America’s Team, and the presence of Sherman’s former secondary coach won’t hurt. Still, the front office has mostly refrained from making splash free agency signings since Stephen Jones gained power, and the Cowboys are one of just four teams with fewer than $5M in available cap space.
- Packers: Sherman and Aaron Rodgers have had their fair share of battles over the years, and the Packers are keenly aware they need help in the secondary. Still, this is another organization that traditionally hasn’t spent big on outside free agents. The Packers also have the seventh-smallest cap space.
Eliminated: Cowboys, Packers
Remaining: Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders, Patriots, Texans, Vikings, Chargers, Colts, Panthers, Falcons
“And the Situation Is Comfortable for Me and My Family”
Sherman needs to get paid, but he’s also an intelligent player who isn’t about to join a team without a clear on-field or front-office plan. Considering some of the turmoil surrounding the Texans’ organization in recent months, it seems unlikely that Sherman would sign there. And even though Sherman could reunite with college teammate Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, he seems unlikely to sign with a Colts team that is rebuilding.
Then we have the Chargers, who offer location and Sherman’s former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley; the Panthers, who offer the need for a cornerback; and the Falcons, who offer Sherman’s former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. All three teams have fewer than $25M in available cap space, and each theoretically has a No. 1 corner already.
Eliminated: Colts, Texans, Chargers, Panthers, Falcons
Remaining: Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders, Patriots, Vikings
We’ve cut Sherman’s list of potential suitors to five. Let’s break down what the remaining teams have to offer for free agency’s top cornerback.
Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that Sherman has a strong affinity for the West Coast and is familiar with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh‘s scheme. Sherman reportedly had dinner with Kyle Shanahan Friday night, and Adam Schefter has verified Sherman will meet with the 49ers again Saturday potentially to get a contract done if it goes well. General manager John Lynch has the fifth-most cap space in the league at his disposal. The chance for Sherman to live relatively close to Stanford and to play against his now-former team twice per year could be appealing.
My lean: Take it. The 49ers check all the boxes and apparently earned Sherman’s first unofficial visit. Without a holdup in location, quarterback play, or cap space, the 49ers are the current favorite for a reason.
Sherman hasn’t shied away from a potential reunion with Pete Carroll and company. He told ESPN’s Josina Anderson he’s being released “with the hope that I can return” and the Seahawks “wanted the financial flexibility.” Poised to count $13.2M against the 2018 cap, Sherman was deemed by the Seahawks to be too expensive. We saw Don’ta Hightower return to the Patriots last offseason after no suitors were willing to pay him an absurd amount of money, but Sherman did say his goodbyes to teammates and will likely take plenty of meetings before reconsidering Seattle.
My lean: Pass. It’s good that neither Sherman nor the Seahawks has burnt this bridge, but the Seahawks probably could’ve afforded Sherman if they really wanted to. Per Sean Culligan, 24 of the 46 NFL players who reported a torn Achilles tendon in 2011-15 never played football again or retired shortly afterward.
Another west coast squad offers Sherman the chance to be his secondary’s No. 1 corner. The Raiders’ 30th-ranked defense in pass DVOA could certainly use the boost, although signing Sherman to a big number could be tough for the Raiders, who have the ninth-smallest cap space, although they could create some room by cutting Sherman’s former teammate Marshawn Lynch and his former rival Michael Crabtree.
My lean: Pass. The only box the Raiders seem to tick is location. It’s not a stretch to call them the weakest contender remaining when it comes to on-field performance.
Sherman reportedly asked Patriots players to suggest to Bill Belichick that he trade for Sherman last season. A one-year ‘prove you’re still healthy’ deal would make sense given that the team was rewarded by taking a similar chance on Revis in 2014. Stephon Gilmore is the team’s incumbent No. 1 corner, but there’s a need for an over-qualified No. 2 with Malcolm Butler set to hit free agency.
My lean: Take it. The Patriots are regularly a featured destination for veteran free agents, and why wouldn’t they be? Tom Brady and Belichick can seemingly produce contenders into perpetuity. It’s unlikely they’d devote too much of their salary cap to one position, but four-digit odds are sufficient value for a team that could very well be near the top of Sherman’s desired destinations.
Trae Waynes was just about the only sore thumb on the Vikings defense last season, and the potential signing of Kirk Cousins would likely make Minnesota the odds-on-favorite to win the NFC. Sherman and Xavier Rhodes would form one of the league’s best and most imposing cornerback duos. The Vikings seem to have enough available cap space (pending Cousins’ deal), but it’s unclear if there’s mutual interest on both sides.
My lean: Pass. While this pairing might make sense on paper, the Vikings defense has reached this level thanks in large part to starting the same core players for each of the past three seasons. Spending big on outside free agents hasn’t quite been the Vikings’ style, and it’d be perfectly understandable if Sherman wanted to avoid wintertime in Minnesota.
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports