By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For some time, it appeared as though Richard Sherman was well on his way to establishing his legacy as one of the greatest Seattle Seahawks of all time. Now, the team is about to kick him to the curb. That’s crazy.
But life — and especially life in the NFL — goes on, and now Richard Sherman is going to have some choices to make. As a soon-to-be street free agent, Sherman should find himself fielding some offers from a number of teams. The Patriots are almost certain to be one of those teams, and they’re equally as certain to not be offering the most money. But might they be able to offer Sherman a little bit more?
Before we get there, let’s start here: Sherman may not be able to boast about being the best cornerback in the NFL anymore, but he’s still very talented, very physical, very experienced, and very tall for a cornerback. He’s still got a lot to offer.
But teams, of course, will be wary to throw money at him, considering he’s coming off a torn Achilles as well as a procedure to clean up his other Achilles. That raises a red flag or two, but it also presents an opportunity for many personnel men to try to get a good player at a great price.
The reality is that Achilles injuries aren’t necessarily a major deal. While an Achilles injury can be a career-ender, it doesn’t have to be. Terrell Suggs made an incredibly speedy recovery in 2012 from the injury, and he made a Pro Bowl the following season. Demaryius Thomas made a quick recovery in 2011, the same year he caught that famous game-winning touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to beat the Steelers in the playoffs. At cornerback, Leon Hall returned in 2012 from a torn Achilles suffered the previous November, and he performed at his usual level. Even an old fella (34 is old now) like Derrick Johnson, who ruptured his Achilles in December of 2016, was able to return and play in 2017. That was Johnson’s second Achilles rupture; coming off his first rupture in 2015, he made Second Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowl. Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles in 2013 and then helped win a Super Bowl in 2014; he played for two more seasons after that, despite his mammoth frame.
You get the picture: an Achilles injury is not as devastating as it might have been 10 or 15 or 20 years ago.
Teams know that, so there figures to be a number of interested parties in Sherman’s services. Their offers will vary, though it’s a near-sure thing that nobody will come close to offering the $11 million in base salary which Sherman was supposed to be paid by the Seahawks in 2018. That might be too risky. But he will get offers, some better than others, and it will be up to him to choose what he wants.
That’s where the Patriots’ involvement might get interesting. If Sherman still believes he’s worth $11 million-plus per year between now and his 35th birthday, then the best way to get that money may be to prove that he’s worth it. And few teams can offer the stage that the Patriots can in order to get that done.
Just ask Darrelle Revis.
Revis, too, once claimed to be the best cornerback in all of football. At various times from 2008-2011, he was speaking the truth. He forced the Jets to pay him like it, too. But he tore up his knee in 2012, and the Jets decided to ship him down to Tampa in exchange for a first- and fourth-round pick.
Revis spent one mediocre season in Tampa as he recovered from the knee injury at age 28, and then the Bucs released him. The Patriots moved in quickly to offer him a two-year deal that was, for all intents and purposes, a one-year deal that would essentially pay him $12 million. At age 29, Revis had a chance to prove to the NFL that he was still a top dog. He succeeded.
Revis played excellently in 2014, playing in all 16 games and then helping the team to a Super Bowl victory against … Richard Sherman and the Seahawks.
And after the Patriots let Revis out of his contract following the year (something that was surely agreed-upon when the deal was signed), it didn’t take long for Revis to cash in … in a huge way. The Jets jumped to the forefront of the Revis sweepstakes and offered him a ridiculous $39 million guaranteed. It was exactly what Revis wanted.
Granted, Revis never lived up to that contract, playing two inconsistent seasons before getting cut last March. But that hardly mattered; the man made his money.
(Somewhat related: Brandon Browner, a former teammate of Sherman, also became a pretty rich man after he played well for one season with the Patriots, showing that teams tend to over-value players who win championships and tend to over-value players who excel under Bill Belichick. He was out of the league within a year.)
It created an awfully nice road map for Sherman. In the event he finds himself not getting the offers he hopes to get as a free agent, perhaps Sherman looks at a short-term deal with the Patriots in a greater light. Realistically, the Patriots are all but guaranteed to return to the postseason next year, and they should be considered to have a chance somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of reaching the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season. Assuming he can play at a high level, and assuming he doesn’t randomly get benched for the Super Bowl, he’ll put himself in position to be the belle of the ball next year at this time.
All of that is, of course, dependent on what other teams do. Maybe the Colts or the Titans or the Buccaneers or the Texans or the Broncos or the Cardinals or the Packers or any other team offers Sherman some solid money right now. Maybe that deal will be enough to satisfy Sherman without having to go the same route as Revis.
But if those offers aren’t quite up to Sherman’s liking, and if he still wants to earn one more massive NFL payday, then few teams out there can offer the same kind of path as the New England Patriots.