Sunday we took a look at the basics of the contract former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed with the San Francisco 49ers, and now we have the full details. Much of what was reported yesterday remains accurate, however, there are a couple of differences and clarifications that are definitely worth noting.
The biggest thing that has come out in the last twenty four hours is that the signing bonus, reported initially as $5M, is actually only $3M. The additional $2M is in the form of a roster bonus that gets paid if Sherman is on the 49ers roster on the first day of training camp. This is massive because if Sherman does not pass a physical at the start of camp and is put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, he won’t be on the roster and will not receive that $2M.
If there were any doubts about Sherman’s belief in his ability to be ready for not just the start of the season, but the start of training camp, this should put those to rest. Sherman has just made a $2M bet on himself that he will be fully healthy and not on PUP to start training camp, so that is definitely something worth watching.
The second material clarification is regarding the playing time incentives. In the prior article I took a stab in the dark that the $1M in playing time incentives would be $500k for reaching each of 80% and 90% of defensive snaps played. I was close, but not quite on the money. The actual incentive involves the full amount of $1M being paid out if he plays 90% of the team’s defensive snaps. In short, if he is a starter and stays healthy for the full duration of the season, he’ll earn that $1M. On top of this there is also a $50,000 workout bonus Sherman can earn each season for participating in the team’s offseason workout program.
Stepping back to the signing bonus to look at how this changes his cap hit, the difference between a $5M signing bonus and the $3M signing and $2M roster bonus combination is rather simple. Rather than a prorated portion of the signing bonus of $1.67M to be recognized in 2018, it is a prorated portion of the signing bonus of $1M plus the full $2M roster bonus that will count against the 2018 cap. That’s a net difference of $1.33M above the number I had pegged Sunday, and when that plus the $50,000 workout bonus are added to the numbers I used Sunday, it puts Sherman’s cap hit at $6.175M heading into the 2018 season.
Beyond 2018 there are vesting performance guarantees that Sherman can hit by making the Pro Bowl, which guarantees Sherman a base salary of $8M the following season. That is in place for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and effectively allows Sherman to continue to bet on himself each year, even as he passes thirty years of age and plays through the seasons in which cornerbacks most often face a decline.
The structure of the contract certainly makes for an interesting situation to watch. The 2017 season was the first time Sherman had missed time due to injury, so it is likely he certainly thinks this is easy money to earn, but 2018 will be the first season he plays after his 30th birthday, as well as the first season he plays on a surgically repaired Achilles.
In short, Richard Sherman bet on himself. We’ll see how well that bet plays out for him going forward. The last former Seahawk who bet on himself while acting as his own agent, Russell Okung, ended up signing a contract that had the highest per year average for any contract ever signed by an offensive lineman in the NFL when he represented himself a second time around in 2017. Going forward it will definitely be interesting to see how Sherman’s situation plays out not just in 2018, but the subsequent years as well.