New 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman laughs as he answers questions during a news conference on March 20, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

New 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman laughs as he answers questions during a news conference on March 20, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Former Seahawk Sherman introduced in San Francisco

The 49ers cornerback defends the widely-criticized deal he struck with his new team.

By Matt Barrows

The Sacramento Bee

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A man who has made a living defending NFL wide receivers on Tuesday spent time defending the contract he signed with the 49ers.

Richard Sherman’s three-year, $39 million deal, which he signed on March 12, has been widely criticized because much of it is tied to incentives. At a news conference Tuesday, Sherman said the criticism is rooted in the fact that he negotiated the deal by himself and that it’s in agents’ best interest to make it look foolhardy.

“I just think it’s one of those things where the agents feel uncomfortable with a player taking the initiative to do his own deal,” he said. “Obviously, it puts a fire under them, it makes them more accountable for their actions (or) more players will do this.”

The cornerback’s negotiation with general manager John Lynch and the 49ers’ chief contract negotiator, Paraag Marathe, took more than five hours and Sherman was on the phone with other interested teams — the Seahawks, Lions and Raiders — throughout. In the end, those teams didn’t have the salary-cap space to accommodate the deal he had worked out with San Francisco.

Some of Sherman’s contract total is tied to making the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams and to playing 90 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. Those might have been reasonable goals in previous seasons, but Sherman will be 30 when the 2018 season begins and he’s coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Recently retired Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas was one of the contract’s critics, writing on Twitter that Sherman “got absolutely crushed” by the 49ers. “This is clearly a case of ego getting in the way of his pocket book,” Thomas wrote. Former Browns and Eagles executive Joe Banner agreed.

“Sherman is right that agents are likely to rip anytime a player does his own deal, but with all respect, this is a bad deal,” he wrote on Twitter. “Teams will be happy if more players do their own deals.”

Sherman said there were indeed other players who felt emboldened by what he had done.

“I think a lot more players feel educated enough to move forward and negotiate their own deals,” he said. “I think these agents sometimes benefit from relationships. ‘Oh, I know this GM. Oh, we’ve had dealings for years.’ And they really don’t have to do a ton of work. ‘Hey, I called this guy. How much are you willing to give him? Oh, $5 million? I’ll convince him that that’s good enough.’ “

In other Sherman news:

— He held the news conference in a bright red suit befitting his new team. Perhaps most significant was that he wasn’t wearing a walking boot after recent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his left Achilles. Sherman downplayed both that and the full rupture he had in the right Achilles last season. He said he felt he’d be at full strength by May or June.

— Sherman noted that free agency is ongoing but said he was concerned that former 49ers safety Eric Reid has yet to be signed. “I’m praying that he gets picked up, but if he doesn’t then I think there would be a conversation between the league office and the union on potential legal action,” he said. Sherman is a member of the NFL Players Association’s board of representatives. He called Reid a “top five, top 10” NFL safety. “He’s made enough plays to be signed with a team and to make his money,” he said. “He deserves his money.”

— Sherman said this month has been a bit of whirlwind. He jumped from one team to its one-time bitter rival on March 12. He’s getting married March 28. And he turns 30 on March 30. “We’ll write that down in the record books later about how this month went,” he said.

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