During their run of success over the past few years, the Seahawks have been defined by the “Legion of Boom,” their stingy secondary, as much as by quarterback Russell Wilson or former running back Marshawn Lynch. And apart from safety Earl Thomas, no Seahawk has been as integral to the success of that secondary as cornerback Richard Sherman.
However, Seattle may be open to trading away the highly accomplished — and highly opinionated — Sherman this offseason. At least that’s what Mike Lombardi, a former top personnel executive with several NFL teams, claimed Thursday.
Lombardi was speaking on a podcast, “The Ringer NFL Show,” when he was asked about the Saints’ trade negotiations with the Patriots over a possible acquisition of cornerback Malcolm Butler. Lombardi said that New Orleans, having sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Pats in a deal that it had hoped would include Butler, was guilty of focusing on that player at the expense of casting a wider net around the league for secondary help.
“For the Saints, if they were to call the Seattle Seahawks up and say, ‘Look, we would be interested in obtaining Richard Sherman — would you be willing to do it?’ I truly believe, based on what I hear around the National Football League, that the Seahawks would, in fact, for the right deal, trade Richard Sherman,” Lombardi said.
The key phrase there is “for the right deal,” because there is a point at which an overwhelming offer could pry almost any player away from any team. However, by noting that he had heard of Sherman’s potential availability through the league grapevine, Lombardi suggested that a trade for Sherman is “an option” the Seahawks have let be known is available to other teams.
If so, several squads could be, or may already have been, making calls to Seattle to gauge what it would take to get Sherman. A four-time Pro Bowler, he is still in his prime at 28 (although he’ll be 29 later this month), and while some observers thought his play slipped a bit in 2016, former cornerback Ike Taylor ranked him No. 1 in a year-end positional review for NFL.com.
If Sherman did not submit his best season, it may have been because he was nursing a knee injury, which the Seahawks failed to disclose, resulting in a warning from the NFL. Off the field, he had a late-season confrontation with a Seattle radio personality after a news conference, after which Sherman apologized for threatening to “ruin” the man’s career by getting his “media pass” revoked.
That followed several incidents in which the outspoken Sherman criticized the league, as well as one in which he publicly differed with teammate Michael Bennett on the Black Lives Matter movement and it’s possible that the Seahawks have grown tired of his act, to at least some degree. However, Lombardi said that the team’s motivation to trade him could come from salary-cap concerns.
“I think Seattle really thought twice about paying Richard Sherman,” Lombardi, who worked for New England from 2014 to 2016, said Thursday. “They felt they had to when they won the Super Bowl. Now their cap’s kind of a mess and they need to fix it. The reason they need to fix it is because they put all that money in the corner position, in a defense where we feel like you can draft players to fit that scheme.”
Following their Super Bowl win in February 2015, the Seahawks gave Sherman a four-year, $56 million contract, one that is set to pay him around $11 million for this season and also for the next. To Lombardi, that may be a luxury that Seattle shouldn’t be willing to afford, especially given that the team’s struggles in the secondary after Thomas’s season-ending injury may have revealed him, not Sherman, to be that unit’s most indispensable member.