BY Art Thiel 02:58PM 03/21/2018

Thiel: 3 minutes of free agency enough for Sherm

Richard Sherman was criticized for taking the first offer, but since he had no offer from Seattle and two surgeries, he couldn’t risk losing the 49ers.

Richard Sherman makes a point about his decision to take the first offer. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

If you’re done peeking through your fingers at the sight of Richard Sherman wearing 49ers colors at his first press conference in Santa Clara, feel free take your scheduled sports anxiety meds in double doses and read on to the key pivot point in the saga.

It won’t bring Sherman back, but it might ease the bewilderment, and keep you from mixing alcohol with the drugs.

We still don’t have the Seahawks side of things, and may never. Pete Carroll and John Schneider understand there’s no upside to a public pissing match with Sherman, who can’t allow himself to be wrong.

But Sherman wrote his version of events on the Players’ Tribune, and revealed more than he may realize about why he jumped at the first phone call.

Sherman wrote that at a meeting March 7, the Seahawks told him they were going to release him shortly. No negotiations about an extension, no talk of a pay cut, no trade possibilities. Just thanks and g’bye, and if you get an offer, please call to see if we want to match.

The application of the figurative scythe was indirectly corroborated by tweets that day from startled teammates offering their public salutes to Sherman. Two days later, while Sherman and his fiancee, Ashley, were in Las Vegas attending players union meetings, the news broke. He wrote:

A few hours later, at about 1 p.m. Pacific, the Seahawks officially released me.

After that, things happened really fast.

At like 1:03 p.m. I got a call from the 49ers. They wanted me to fly to San Jose to have dinner with (coach) Kyle Shanahan. So I got my affairs in order — I had literally been a free agent for only a few minutes — and wrapped up some union business. Then I went back to my hotel with my fiancée, Ashley, and we grabbed our things and jumped on a flight.

The key phrase there was, I had been a free agent for only a few minutes.

It explains a lot.

For the first time in his remarkable professional life, he had been seriously injured, then fired during what he believes to be the prime of his career. And he had no imminent salary, because the final year of his Seattle contract at $11 million was not guaranteed.

Doesn’t matter how much money he made previously, those three minutes of free agency constituted a cold wind. He felt he needed immediate shelter. San Francisco provided.

Could he have used a trustworthy agent to calm him? Yes.

Could he have worked the NFL room for more than the $3 million guaranteed signing bonus (plus another $2 million if he passes a physical exam by Nov. 11) he received from the 49ers? Probably.

Could he have feared that with each passing day in free agency, the rest of NFL would tend to believe that the Seahawks, who know his situation best, had good reasons to feel he was no longer worth the investment? Hard to know for sure, but if he didn’t think that, he’s not as smart as I’ve always felt he was.

So Sherman declined to play the field, an ironic turn for a guy whose football style was anything but tentative. His incentives-laden deal that can be ended after 2018 with no cost to the team was criticized by some, including this story by the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.

The apparent impulse for security also provides insight into the the biggest problem with players representing themselves. Beyond physical gifts, athletes in any sport who achieve at high levels share a trait: They are trained to accept as a virtue the mantra to live in the moment. The athlete who dwells on mistakes or stares into the future is compromised in the now.

Living in the moment is as essential to success in competition as it is often detrimental to  creating and sticking to a long-term business plan that emphasizes security over risk-taking.

Then again, the man didn’t think he was going to be fired after surgeries on both legs in the off-season. No long-term plans can accommodate that.

At his press conference Tuesday, Sherman elaborated.

“I got no money guaranteed in Seattle, I’m coming off a ruptured Achilles, what do I have?” he said, answering a question about what pissed him off with Seattle’s position.  “What security do I have there? With this deal, I get $5 million guaranteed, which is half of my other contract. I get the ability to make more than I could have done, whether I played at an All-Pro level or not in Seattle. And that’s really all that I wanted.”

The non-cash bonuses for signing with San Francisco were at least three: A return to the Bay Area where he went to college, two annual chances to stick it to the Seahawks, and joining a team on the upswing rather than on a downstroke. The latter is important.

Even though there remains helpful talent in the free agent marketplace, and the draft is here in five weeks, it is inescapable that players who must make decisions right now between similar financial offers often use a team’s prospects for success as a tie-breaker.

For the first time in Carroll’s tenure, the Seattle prospects don’t look good, especially relative to the new regime in Santa Clara that now has a shrewd front office, coach and top-shelf quarterback.

Before the frenzy began, our friend and former Sportspress NW colleague Doug Farrar, now at Bleacher Report, listed his top 50 free agents. Three of the top 15 were Seahawks — WR Paul Richardson at No. 15, DT Sheldon Richardson at No. 7 and TE Jimmy Graham at No. 6. That doesn’t include Sherman, whose three minutes of free agency occurred after publication.

All four signed elsewhere, for a cumulative maximum contract value of $117 million. Given the constraints of the Seahawks under the salary cap, they had little chance to afford any of the four. With each departure, the Seahawks made themselves a little less attractive to other free agents as a place where it still is happening.

Even with all the salary dumps, has the Seahawks with only about $18 million in cap space, from which they also may have to squeeze extensions for LT Duane Brown and FS Earl Thomas.

Regarding Sherman, it is easy for some fans to villainize him for leaving the Seahawks, but in fact, the team left him. As they did other stalwarts from a time that teeters upon being identified as a golden era bygone, because of higher-priority contracts.

A part of the decay is what all NFL teams go through after successful players are paid well. Another part is the bad fortune of simultaneous injuries to key players. And another part is that Seahawks have drafted sufficiently poorly that quality options for replacement just aren’t there.

Sherman found a solution for the cold wind. The Seahawks continue to shiver.


  • Ron

    Interesting, Art, including the Boston Globe story. But the team left him when he wanted out last year. Not fair to blame Seahawks management.

  • Steed

    I think this will be harder for Niners fans than Seahawks fans. All the great players move on eventually. That is familiar to us. Having public enemy #1 join your team is different.

    What Sherman helped the Seahawks accomplish cannot be diminished; it’s history now.

    Just as future Niners victories cannot erase the crushing defeats of the past at the hands of the Seahawks. The future may unfold differently, but what has already transpired is not subject to alteration.

  • John M

    It will be interesting if they put Doug against Sherm during the season. As much as I admired Sherman’s focus and anticipation, and his community service, I doubt he can go a full season on the same level as in the past, and he will be in a less forgiving atmosphere . . .

    • Kevin Lynch

      Sherm may have help. Right now it looks like Doug may get some double coverage next year. Unless the Hawks grab a superior receiver in the draft. But even then…

  • Tian Biao

    suddenly I can see the future: it consists of Richard Sherman trashing the Seahawks twice a week for the next three years at least, with the frequency and vitriol increasing sharply before and after Seahawk – Niner games. Sorry, Art: I am definitely going to need those sports anxiety meds. lots of ’em. and soon. There’s no escaping it: dude is too intelligent, quotable, funny, angry, insecure, vengeful, volatile, and insightful to ignore. god help us.

  • Effzee

    Speed was never Sherman’s thing, and now with an achilles injury, who knows if he can get what speed he had back. He sounds like a guy who knows this, and he sounds like he really needs to shore up his financial security. I hope with all of his Stanford Brains that he’s been planning for life after football accordingly.

  • WestCoastBias79

    All this sucks, but they have to retool. Issues on the team go way beyond Blair Walsh missing stuff. A core of Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, and Bobby Wagner is a good core. *IF* they can draft around that, they’ll be fine.

  • jafabian

    If the Seahawks just outright cut him instead of proposing restructuring his contract as Russell Wilson did so the team could acquire Duane Brown then that’s a message to Richard saying they believed it would be best for both parties to go their separate ways. I’m still unsure of releasing him but certainly understand their POV. Sherman was their Gary Payton, a great talent who’s personality and team relationships were challenging to say the least. Unlike Payton though Sherman embraced Seattle, living here year ‘round and was involved in the community. I’ve always thought it was telling that he was never named a captain when he was the unquestioned leader of the LOB. Hard to say what the future holds for him but despite the ending of his Seahawks career it’s still very bright.

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    I was sad to see Sherman leave, as was my son. We’ve been genuine Seahawks’ fans through the worst of 2-14 seasons and Super Bowls. I wish the best for Sherman, because he gave the Seahawks that “swagger”; a concept to which the Raiders’ Al Davis sometimes referred. I respect and will miss Sherman, but I also am concerned about his health. For them to have let him go so easily (and they know his health situation better than anybody), he’s got to have one foot in the therapy room and the other on a banana peel. I think he’ll be lucky to play 1 complete year for San Francisco. It’s probably worth it to the Niners just to poke Seattle in the eye for a relatively small guaranteed salary, but I’m still sorry to see him go. If the Seahawks had wanted to “make a statement,” they could have easily reached out and told him that he would always be part of the family and perhaps offered him a position in coaching. They could have buttered his bread completely aside from the salary cap if they had so wished. And, who knows? Maybe they offered him that, and he felt it’s too soon in his life? I will always appreciate the “aggro” style he brought to Seattle, with his aggressive and incisive talk. He (at least the player we knew him to be (it sounds like he may not even be able to run until July)) will be missed. :(

  • tor5

    Thanks to Art’s persistent edification, I’m finally starting to understand the Hawks’ main problem: math. All this turmoil is rough on the 12s, but something had to give. It’s not unlike when Pete and John first took over. They were trading and dealing like madmen, but it worked out pretty darn well. Maybe they can show us it wasn’t a fluke. As for Sherm, it will sure be hard to replace his complex personality: insightful commentary, threatening reporters, brilliant play, tough and reliable, screaming at coaches. Somehow it makes sense that he becomes an arch rival. I guess I’ll always love/hate the guy.