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Making sense of the Richard Sherman trade rumors

Sherman was on the trading block throughout 2017, but is trading him still a realistic possibility for the Seahawks this year?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks have been willing to trade star cornerback Richard Sherman in the past. They were openly shopping him all throughout 2017, up until late October’s trade deadline; the Miami Dolphins made multiple attempts to acquire him, general manager John Schneider said the option was, at least for a time, on the table, and, also at least for a time, Sherman himself was open to the idea.

Now, with the Seahawks possessing just over $14 million in expected salary cap space and needing to free up additional cash, Sherman’s name is being floated as a potential roster cut or again being placed on the trading block. Just this week,’s Gregg Rosenthal suggested Sherman being shopped-and-shipped (along with fellow Seattle defensive back Earl Thomas). But there are bigger obstacles in the way of Sherman going to a new team this year than there were 12 months ago.

One is age. Sherman is 30 years old, and despite his history as a proven shutdown corner, those days are coming to an end. Given that any interested team would have to absorb his $11 million salary for 2018, the combination may not appeal to the Dolphins or any other suitors the Seahawks entertained a year ago. While those same suitors could sign and then extend Sherman’s contract—which is in its final year—thus lowering his payout for the upcoming season, they may also balk at such a prospect because of the age factor. And none of that also accounts for Sherman’s injury situation, which presents the other major hurdle to a trade that did not exist in 2017.

Sherman suffered a torn Achilles in November, underwent surgery in Green Bay a few days later and said at the time it would take six to eight months to recover and two or three months just to walk on it regularly. While he’s since taken a more optimistic tack to his rehabilitation now that it’s been underway—saying in early February that he should be ready by May’s OTAs but won’t plan on practicing in full until training camp—that doesn’t make him a more appealing trade target for general managers around the league.

Even if Sherman is being completely transparent about the status of his recovery, free agency begins in mid-March, while the NFL Draft takes place in late April. Teams with needs at cornerback can find healthier (and potentially cheaper) veteran options or younger (and certainly cheaper) rookies. And that also doesn’t take into account the fact that Sherman wouldn’t likely be able to pass a physical with his new team if traded this spring, which may require the Seahawks to throw in additional compensation in order to move him, much as was the case regarding the Jeremy Lane-Duane Brown trade with the Houston Texans last year. Depending on that hypothetical compensation, it may prove to be less enticing for Seattle to part ways with Sherman.

Sherman also wants to stay; leaving, he said this month, is “not in my mind.”

And though he’s not quite the same player as he was in his prime, Sherman still had two interceptions, seven passes defensed and 35 combined tackles in his nine games last year. Football Outsiders had him ranked in the 40s in all of their cornerback metrics, but at the same time that was out of 187 qualifying cornerbacks, proving Sherman’s value remains relatively high. But it should also be noted that those facts alone are often not enough to save any player when compensation and employment is more heavily contingent on “what can you do next?” rather than “what have you done?” even if he did help define the Seahawks’ identity this decade.

Sherman, at age 30, coming off of Achilles surgery, is as big a question mark for the Seahawks as he is to any would-be trade partner; the salary situation only serves to set those facts in even further relief. Any interested team would have to believe that those facts aren’t liabilities, which, if true, gives Seattle little incentive to trade him; either that, or another team would have to be desperate enough to overlook age and injury and make the move regardless, something that isn’t out of the realm of reality but less likely. The compensation in return would also be far less lucrative than a year ago, when age was the main concern with Sherman and not injury status or game-readiness as it is now.

It’s true that the Seahawks need to free up cap space. It’s also true that Sherman is set to make $13.2 million this year if he remains in Seattle, the other $2.2 million coming by way of prorated guaranteed signing bonus with that $2.2 million being the only dead-cap charge the Seahawks would have to absorb with his absence. He has the team’s second-highest salary and third-highest cap hit this year, and the sixth-highest 2018 cap hit among cornerbacks. In a normal year—one in which Sherman wasn’t recovering from significant injury—it would all easily seem to equate to a no-brainter trade. But the injury factor makes Sherman less attractive as a trade target, at least in the short-to-medium term.

Thus, while there are compelling reasons why the Seahawks would be willing to trade Sherman, those reasons are also ones that could hinder a trade from coming to fruition. Once Sherman is healthier, once the dust settles after free agency and the draft and once both the Seahawks and the other 31 teams around the league can better evaluate where their rosters stand, perhaps then a trade would be more likely.

But signs don’t seem to point to another team making a successful move for Sherman in the immediate future.