The shutdown cornerback will stay in the NFC West after inking a three-year deal with the 49ers worth up to $39 million, with a $5m signing bonus.
While it initially seems like San Francisco overpaid for a 29-year-old recovering from a ruptured Achilles, Sherman’s contract is laden with incentives to cover the 49ers if he doesn’t return to full health or is a shell of himself.
Also, if Sherman — who’s coming off a torn Achilles — makes the Pro Bowl in 2018, my understanding is another $16M in base salary for 2019-20 becomes guaranteed. Creative structure from Paraag Marathe and Sherman’s agent ... Sherman.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 11, 2018
As if Sherman needs more motivation to come back strong, he’ll now have the opportunity to face his former side twice in the regular season. That may have played a significant role in his decision to not meet with any other team after being released by the Seahawks, as could have returning to the Bay Area where he played college football at Stanford.
Seattle decided to move on from Sherman to save $11m, with his release part of a host of changes on the defence that also included trading defensive end Michael Bennett.
While the Seahawks transition to a new era, the 49ers continue to build excitement around their franchise after closing out last season on a promising run with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Sherman will help fill arguably San Francisco’s biggest need with the secondary previously a major question mark.
Last season, the 49ers’ pass defence ranked 24th in the league in yards allowed per attempt with 7.2, 22nd in yards allowed per game with 235 and 24th in passer rating allowed with 93.9.
In Sherman, San Francisco bring in a cornerback who has the most interceptions (32) and passes defended (99) since entering the league in 2011. No player with 300-plus targets has allowed a lower completion percentage (47.4) or passer rating (50.9) over the span either.
When he was healthy, Sherman was essentially a one-man island on the left side of the Seahawks defence, often matching up and shutting down the opposing team’s best receiver on the outside.
His size – 6-foot-3, 195 pounds – allows him to be physical against bigger receivers and win jump-ball situations. So while he’s certainly athletic, Sherman isn’t fully reliant on his speed or quickness, which bodes well for his effectiveness post-Achilles injury.
Even after signing Sherman and extending Garoppolo this offseason, the 49ers have more than $50m in salary cap space to continue adding talent.
Though they’re not a finished product yet, San Francisco are set up to fight for the playoffs when they carry over a five-game winning streak into next season.
While the Los Angeles Rams, who are having an impressive offseason in their own right, will be the team to beat in the division, San Francisco have at least closed the gap between them and Seattle.
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