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Richard Sherman: Still dominant

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Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks fruitless effort to trade Richard Sherman could be the best thing that happens to them all year.

Despite ongoing negative reports about Sherman’s play last season, he had more pressure on him than ever to succeed and went above and beyond expectations. For the first time, Sherman had to play professional football without All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. He was also asked to do more roaming and tracking around the field of number one receivers than ever before. And Sherman’s supporting cornerbacks group may have been the worst of his six-year career.

Yet he still continues to be one of, if not the best, cornerback in the game. And don’t you ever forget it.

Over the last three seasons, Sherman ranks number one in passer rating against, with a figure of 60.2 when QBs target him.

For context, Jared Goff posted a rating of 63.6 last season, the worst of any QB with at least four starts. Going further back than that, Goff’s rookie season was one of the worst of any QB in the modern game. Bryce Petty of the Jets posted a rating of exactly 60 last season on 133 attempts.

Throwing at Sherman, on average, results in production worse than Goff and basically at the same level as Petty.

Now consider that Sherman was potentially even better from 2011-2013, but he’s still been one of the best from 2014-2016. NFL.com’s Ike Taylor ranked Sherman as the best cornerback in the league for last season, noting that he allowed a rating of 64, with two touchdowns allowed, four interceptions, and barely 50% completions. Sherman did this with Thomas missing five games, Kam Chancellor missing four games, Jeremy Lane struggling for most of the season, Steven Terrell looking completely lost, and DeShawn Shead tearing his ACL late in the year. Similarly, pressure was applied in 2015 when Chancellor held out for two games, missed another three, and the Cary Williams experiment blew up in the org’s face.

Now let’s explore what a bunch teams felt wasn’t worth the trouble: Trading for Sherman, who has an APY of roughly $11 million over the next two seasons.

First round picks have a success rate of about 50/50. In the first round this year, five cornerbacks were selected: Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, Adoree’ Jackson, Gareon Conley, and Tre’Davious White. One one hand, there is a very small chance that any of them will become as good as Sherman is. No offense to the lot, but there’s a very small chance that any player will turn into a Hall of Fame caliber cornerback. The upshot is that they will all come on rookie deals, so even if they aren’t Sherman, they don’t need to be in order to be a better value.

Still, given that 2-3 of them will usually disappoint, that means that maybe 2-3 of them will even be in the running to be a better value than Sherman. Let’s say that Lattimore, Conley, and White turn into good cornerbacks. Their teams will have three extra years of control that they would not have had with Sherman barring a contract extension, that would even further push up his APY.

However, in the positive section for Sherman: He is Sherman. As arguably the game’s best corner, with plenty of years left to produce, a team knows that they have a top-end defensive back with which to defend an opposing team’s number one weapon. The type who can contain Julio Jones. Or Dez Bryant. Or Odell Beckham Jr. Or Antonio Brown. Or Amari Cooper. The point being: The playoffs will have a lot of great receivers. Probably more great receivers than there are great corners.

So you could make the argument that the Seahawks may be better off long term if they had managed to swing a deal that landed them Lattimore instead of Sherman, but you’d be hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle would have been better off in 2017-2018 in that very same scenario. Because they still have Sherman, the Seahawks still have one of the best and most valuable players in the NFL.

Don’t believe the hype. Unless it comes from Sherman.