When the details of the contract Richard Sherman signed with the San Francisco 49ers first leaked out, Sherman was ridiculed on multiple fronts, including by agents, members of the media and even other players. In order to address this, Sherman has taken to a platform he has usedin the past and authored a piece for the Players’ Tribune. It is an interesting read and can be found here for anyone who wants to learn Sherman’s side of the story about how things went down from the release to the courtship with San Francisco to the reasons why he signed there.
In any case, for those who don’t want to read the his entire piece (it’s short and worth the time it take to read it, in my opinion), my biggest takeaway from the article was regarding a detail of his contract. It has been reported that his contract includes a $2M roster bonus if he passed a physical and was on the roster for the first day of training camp. However, according to Sherman, he is entitled to that $2M roster bonus if he passes a physical and makes the roster anytime before November 11. Here is a screengrab of the pertinent part with the bit about the roster bonus highlighted.
Now, what’s interesting regarding that is that it is completely incorrect as of the 2017 NFL season. I am guessing Sherman was relying on the fact that in prior seasons a player had to pass a physical and come off the PUP list before a team’s eleventh game of the season or be placed on IR, but that’s not the case anymore. Regardless of that rule, week 10 of the NFL season falls on November 11, 2018, so I am guessing that is where he got that specific date.
However, as noted and as we saw with Jeremy Lane in 2015, the old rule simply required a player to come off the PUP list prior to the eleventh game of the year, not prior to the eleventh week of the season. As most teams will have their bye week prior to the eleventh game of the season, the eleventh game falls in Week 12 for the overwhelming majority of teams. Week 12 of the 2018 season should fall on November 25.
However, that’s irrelevant at this point. Unless the NFL went back to the old rule sometime this offseason without telling anyone, that deadline no longer exists. As we all saw this past season, the Seattle Seahawks activated DeShawn Shead from the PUP list well after November 11, and even well after Week 12. In fact, as can be seen in this capture from the Fox Sports Transactions tracker, Shead was not activated from the PUP list until December 23rd, the day prior to Seattle’s Christmas Eve matchup with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16.
If the language in Sherman’s contract is not specific as to an exact date, and the league has not returned to the old PUP activation deadline, then Sherman should be entitled to the $2M roster bonus as long as he passes a physical and is moved to the 53 man roster anytime before the end of the season. Without seeing the exact contract and without getting to analyze the specific wording, that can’t be known, but based on what is known about the NFL’s PUP activation rules and what Sherman says in his Player’s Tribune article, that’s my take on it.
Now, if John Lynch and Paraag Marathe are also both uninformed about this matter, then that’s a whole different discussion that we could go on and on about. Those two are highly compensated to do their job and part of their job is to know the ins and outs of NFL contracts and the CBA. At a minimum they should have people who work for them who are aware of these matters and can address them when they come up.
Getting back to Sherman and whether he is accurate or not about needing to be activated prior to November 11th I’ll leave to the lawyers to decide, but it’s the little things like this where an agent can make a difference. I’m not necessarily saying that’s worth 3% of whatever Sherman makes on his contract with the 49ers, but it is the type of detail that an experienced agent should be able to explain that someone like Sherman is less likely to know. Thus, even though his contract is proving to be one of the stronger contracts signed by a defensive back his age to this point in free agency, the simple fact is it appears he may have a complete misunderstanding of what a material portion of the contract actually means to him financially.
It’s highly possible I’m incorrect here, but if I had to wager between me and Mr. Sherman, I’ll put my money on myself any day of the week.