Richard Sherman was bedecked in a loud red suit, his broad smiles belying the seriousness of the negotiations that resulted in his introduction Tuesday as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Sherman made the jump to the Seattle Seahawks’ NFC West rival after doing something few NFL players do: negotiating his own deal. That was a source of great interest when the deal’s details were reported. Sherman signed a contract worth up to $39 million, but a great deal of the money is tied to incentives for playing time and little of it is guaranteed, according to Pro Football Talk.
“The biggest misconception is that it’s a bad deal,” the cornerback said (via the Associated Press). “If you’re comparing it to my last deal in Seattle, I had no money guaranteed. … I’m coming off a ruptured Achilles’. What do I have? What security do I have there? With this deal, I get $5 million guaranteed, which is half of my other contract. I get the ability to make more than I could have done whether I played at an all-pro level or not in Seattle. And that’s really all that I wanted. I play at the level that I’m capable of. I feel security in the upcoming years and I felt comfortable with that. I’m great with that.”
Sherman is, to a degree, betting on himself, as Kirk Cousins successfully did. Sherman receives a $3 million signing bonus, a $2 million salary for 2018 and a $2 million bonus if he passes a physical before Nov. 11. The salary beyond that is tied to per-game active roster bonuses and rewards for being named to the Pro Bowl or all-pro teams. He could make as much as $13 million this season if he reaches those marks and plays at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps and all 16 games.
Sherman said he negotiated for 5 1/2 hours with the Niners and, unlike other players, the money is all his.
“One of the main reasons I had decided to represent myself in negotiations was because I knew it would be a big challenge, and I never shy away from a challenge,” he explained in a Players’ Tribune post. “But also, I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else. So I thought, Who better than me?
“But I wasn’t just going to fly by the seat of my pants. I downloaded past contracts from the NFLPA database and, with the union’s help, spent a lot of time studying the language and structure and nuances within contracts. And when all was said and done, and the 49ers and I had agreed to terms, there were a lot of things I got out of the deal that I wanted.
“Under my previous contract with Seattle, I had no guaranteed money for 2018. In my new deal with the 49ers, I get a guaranteed $3 million signing bonus right off the bat and another $2 million if I pass a physical before November 11, which is the last day a team can bring a player off the PUP [physically unable to perform] list. And in a sport where contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, money in hand is better than anything. So $5 million for just signing the contract and passing a physical is a big win for me.”
Sherman admits that there’s a roll of the dice that could benefit San Francisco. Joe Thomas, the Cleveland Browns’ recently retired lineman, thinks Sherman got “crushed.”
“If I never get back to the Richard Sherman everybody has become accustomed to seeing on the field, the 49ers are protected,” he writes. “They won’t overpay for somebody who’s not on the field and who’s not playing at a high level.
“And if I do get back to that level — which I fully intend to do — then I’ll be compensated accordingly.”
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