All signs point to Richard Sherman’s spectacularly successful Seattle Seahawks time will end this weekend.
Perhaps as early as Friday.
The three-time All-Pro cornerback and Super Bowl champion is representing himself without an agent in talks with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider on his future. It’s become apparent this week the only NFL team he’s known does not want to pay the 29-year-old coming off two Achilles-tendon surgeries since December the $11 million remaining on this, the final year of his contract.
According to multiple league sources, Sherman appeared to be weighing three options Thursday night:
— Exploring with the Seahawks an agreeable price for an injury-settlement payment in a waived-injured situation.
— Trying to determine if another team would be willing to pay him an even semi-attractive salary for 2018 away from Seattle.
— Exploring whether renegotiating his base pay in 2018 down from his $11 million to play this year for Seattle is a possibility — or something Sherman even wants.
Whatever the outcome, it seems clear the Seahawks have concluded they will not pay Sherman his scheduled $11 million this year.
Still there remain a lot of moving parts to resolve.
The Seahawks almost assuredly won’t make any move of, or with, Sherman official until the start of the league year. That comes on Wednesday. That is when the Seahawks can officially reach an injury settlement and waive-injured a player for a condition that occurred the previous year.
This year will be the final one of the four-year, $56-million contract extension Sherman signed with Seattle before the 2014 season. Even after trading Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles Wednesday to save $2.2 million against the salary cap — a move Seattle is also likely to make official on March 14 — the Seahawks need more cap space to become any kind of buyer in the free-agent market that opens next week.
They also are weighing whether to continue to try to trade Sherman. Thing is, his trade value has never been lower.
First, word is way out across the league that the Seahawks are likely to release him. Teams will wait for that to happen and Sherman to become a free agent before making any offers, on their terms, rather than give Seattle something for him in a needless swap.
Second, Sherman had season-ending surgery to repair the Achilles tendon he tore in a win at Arizona in November.
He recently had a second surgery on the Achilles in his other ankle. That left him in a walking boot for the second time in three months.
So, yes, Seattle would be unlikely to get much more than a bag of kicking tees for Sherman right now in a trade. Or at least, far from the second- and third-round picks they lack in April’s draft. Seattle is seeking to recoup those picks they lost in go-for-it trades for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and left tackle Duane Brown while going 9-7 and missing the playoffs last season.
It all adds up to the famously confident Sherman, who turns 30 this month, most likely betting on himself to couple his injury-settlement money from the Seahawks and a new free-agent deal with another team to equal about as much as that $11 million Seattle no longer wants to pay him in 2018.
Wednesday’s franchise-changing developments show Schneider was serious when he said last week at the NFL scouting combine no Seahawk was untouchable in trade or even release talks.
This week also appears to increase the possibility Earl Thomas remains a Seahawk cornerstone past this year.
The three-time All-Pro free safety is also entering the final year of his contract. He has loudly spoken of wanting a new deal sooner than later. At his sixth Pro Bowl in January hinted he might hold out into the start of the season in September to try and force a new payday from the Seahawks.
It’s been unlikely the team would choose to extend both Sherman and Thomas at this point in its undeniable transition. The famed “Legion of Boom” members aren’t 25-years-old and perennial Super Bowl contenders anymore. They are pushing 30, injured and expensive. They are potential liabilities going forward for a changing team that just missed the playoffs for the first time in six years then overhauled its coaching staff.
Still, Seattle has no proven players to replace Thomas right now. The Seahawks drafted Tedric Thompson last season to be that guy, potentially. But he spent his rookie season on special teams and remains an unknown as an NFL defensive back.
If Sherman is indeed on his way out, that along with sending away Bennett, benched veteran defensive back Jeremy Lane ($4.5 million in cap savings if/when he’s released soon) and Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril ($7.1 million in savings if he retires, as expected, following neck surgery) would create $24.8 million in cap room. That’s more than double what the team had entering Thursday.
That would allow them to extend Thomas and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at team-friendly base salaries the next couple years with up-front guarantees that would please both players. Richardson could become a free agent next week, but the team has been negotiating with him and his agents on a possible extension.
Meanwhile, the Northwest braces for the end of Sherman’s brilliant, usually news-making time in Seattle.