Let me begin by saying that I do not believe for a moment that the Seattle Seahawks will trade Richard Sherman or seriously field any offers for him. I will even follow that up by saying that Pete Carroll’s statement to the media about said trade rumors was basically “No, I don’t think so.” But I still find the most interesting thing about his following statement was that it wasn’t just, “No, that’s not going to happen.” He could have committed way harder to the idea that the Seahawks are not going to trade Sherman, but this is what he had to say instead:
Pete Carroll on Richard Sherman trade rumors: "I don't see anything happening at all.''— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) March 29, 2017
Carroll says he doesn’t “see anything happening at all” but if you asked him the same question about Russell Wilson, wouldn’t he say, “Nothing will happen”? For years, Sherman has been a cornerstone of the turnaround of the franchise, some would argue the most important player on defense, and the idea of trading him would be ludicrous. But I think speculation has mounted because of Sherman’s track record of getting into heated arguments with coaches, teammates, and even the media when he took it to another level in December by telling Jim Moore “I’ll ruin your career.”
Not that a team would really care if a player didn’t get along with the media (Marshawn Lynch received an extension in 2015, after all), but are blowups like this indicative of something bigger bubbling below the surface?
Coupled with Carroll’s statement to make an even stronger case that Seattle will consider trading Sherman is John Schneider’s statements on Tuesday that were similarly non-committal.
“We listen. We listen to everything you would think,” he said. “We’re in a lot of stuff. We try to pride ourselves on that. I think I’ve told you guys before we walk away from 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with or talking about. But at least we know that we’ve knocked down their door, we’ve gone in there and checked it out. We’re not just going to assume. We always just have to constantly be thinking about the organization and how we’re going to move it forward.”
If the Seahawks are listening, what are other teams going to be selling for Sherman?
One benefit of dealing Sherman, is the added cap relief of moving the team’s second-highest paid player. Sherman is set to count $13.6 million against the cap next season and $13.2 million in 2018, the final year of his deal. The fourth-highest paid corner in APY, Sherman was still playing at a high level last season, but it would also be fair to say that his production has declined in successive years since at least 2014. There’s a chance that Sherman, who turns 29 on Thursday, has already hit his peak and that the days of him being a number one shutdown corner are behind him. It would be just as fair to say that he could remain a top-five defensive back and losing him would be detrimental to the Seahawks defense.
However, the passing defense really declined considerably — to a point where it was just plain bad — after the team lost safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg. For now, it would definitely appear that Thomas, not Sherman, is the key player to the Legion of Boom. (In case that was still up for debate.)
It is also worth noting that the Oakland Raiders moved on from Charles Woodson when the future Hall of Fame cornerback was 29, believing he did not have a ton left to give as a shutdown player. He signed a seven-year deal with the Green Bay Packers, going to four Pro Bowls in his 30s, two All-Pro nods, and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He played some of that at safety, but most of it at corner. And even when it was at safety, so what, that’s an important position too.
Meanwhile, Darrelle Revis recently went from “shutdown” to “liability” when he hit 30 and remains a free agent.
The Richard Sherman situation carries risks no matter what Seattle decides to do. There may not even be any great offers on the table. If one is presented, then they need to decide if they can gamble losing Sherman (with cornerback already a huge area of concern and need in the draft) or if they can take the risk of keeping him and seeing him decline/get into heated sideline debates regularly at a cost of more than $13 million. The Cleveland Browns still have $61 million in cap space and an abundance of draft picks. The Jacksonville Jaguars still have $49 million in cap space. The greatest ironic twist of all would be the San Francisco 49ers, who have over $70 million in cap space. And then there’s the Tennessee Titans, who have cap space, a need at corner, and also some extra picks with which to use.
Will the Seahawks trade Sherman? I doubt it. But could they? It sounds like their ears are open to the possibility and it’s not hard to see a few teams that might put an offer on the table that makes it tempting.