A month ago, Richard Sherman was confident he would return to the Seahawks. Apparently, he didn’t hear the emergency alarms going off around the team.
Never is it dull around Richard Sherman. He is a bright, bold thinker and speaker. If he were no longer a part of the Seahawks, the Seattle sports scene would be notably poorer. He’s also had some testy times, be it with coaches, teammates or media, even back to his Stanford days under then-coach Jim Harbaugh. The edginess added to the drama.
But last month he offered some relatively benign thoughts about his playing future that, upon reflection, were the signals that things would not end well with him in Seattle.
He attended the annual Sports Star of the Year at the Sheraton as a presenter, and three of us scribes successfully executed press coverage on him as he ambled down a hotel hallway.
Given that he was entering his contract season injured and owed $11 million, Sherman was asked if there was any question he would be back with the Seahawks in 2018.
“Not in my mind,” he said. “Just get healthy and get back after it.”
Asked whether he had talked contract with Pete Carroll/John Schneider, he said no.
“I’m not sure what they think,” he said. “But it doesn’t change anything for me. If we have the talks, we do. If we don’t, it is what it is.’’
He went on to explain that he would no longer have an agent and would represent himself in any negotiation. He also said he would shortly undergo an operation to remove ankle bone spurs on his “good” left leg, the one that didn’t have surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. He probably wouldn’t return to running until late April or early May.
Not only was each development a red flag, Sherman seemed to think that the Seahawks — and really, every other NFL team — would share his belief that he would be 100 percent of normal by the time the regular season began, if not weeks earlier.
What he didn’t seem to understand was that his team was in something of a crisis of cascading events that overtook any previous long-term plans.
Nor did he seem to realize that the new business year for the NFL would begin March 14, by when the Seahawks would need more salary cap space to help fix some of their numerous personnel problems via free agency ahead of the draft in late April.
The Seahawks had already flushed six assistant coaches, including the three highest-ranking members of the staff. The sound of the franchise’s emergency klaxons was louder than anything produced by the 12s.
Apparently, Sherman missed the cue that many important, expensive people are being tossed from the boat as Seahawks attempt a single-season recovery back to contention.
If reports are true this week, Sherman was told privately that, in the absence of an acceptance of a pay cut, he was going to be released, perhaps as soon as Friday. Sherman Wednesday apparently began texting his farewells to some teammates, one of which was fellow CB Jeremy Lane:
That text message got my heart hurting … damn 25 was my Dawg #WhatsNext
— jeremy lane (@StayingInMyLane) March 7, 2018
Sherman, who went to Las Vegas Thursday to attend a meeting of the players association, was later reported to have told others that nothing was certain. The Seahawks are saying nothing.
But some points are obvious.
The Seahawks in March don’t want to risk missing out on $11 million in salary cap relief in the hope that he’s 100 percent in September. Nor is the team likely to find a trade partner willing to accept the expensive contract as well as the health risks.
A release means Sherman immediately becomes a free agent. In theory, the Seahawks could bid for Sherman at a lower price. But that outcome seems improbable by either side: Sherman likely will deem Seattle’s half-price interest as disrespectful, and the Seahawks a year ago volunteered publicly that they were willing to trade a healthy, productive and one-year younger Sherman for the right price.
Sherman turns 30 on March 30, which by itself is not onerous. But by March 14, he will be unable to pass a physical exam, or even run. As NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport pointed out, that may not happen until May or June, when most teams are learning first-hand about their new players.
As they did Wednesday in trading DE Michael Bennett to the Eagles for a small draft upgrade and an obscure candidate for the fifth receiver position, the Seahawks are willing to shed premier players in order to get younger, healthier and cheaper — fast, for little in return.
The fact that Sherman and Bennett are hugely popular with fans has no bearing. Their age and injuries, along with same to fellow championship stalwarts SS Kam Chancellor and DE Cliff Avril, made them vulnerable to the NFL’s ruthless cruelty.
As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times pointed out, jettisoning Bennett, Sherman, Lane and Avril, among others, could get the Seahawks around $38 million to $40 million under the cap, announced recently as $177.2 million this season, up $10 million from a year ago. But that puts Seattle merely in the middle of teams with cap room.
Free agency is often a sketchy way to improve an NFL team, but since the Seahawks haven’t drafted well lately, there’s not much choice if they want to keep to Carroll’s dictum to never take a year off from contending.
Carroll and Schneider never expected to be in this position. Neither, apparently, did Sherman. The ooga horns make it hard to think.