Richard Sherman likely has played his last down with the Seahawks. When he becomes available to other NFL teams, the Patriots are a good bet to be one of the first in line with a great chance to sign the five-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
Sherman at the end of March will turn 30, an age at which there tends to be rapid decline for players at his position. He also is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2017 season in November.
Although Sherman's play last season did start to drop off before the injury, he was still strong finishing in coverage and remained exceptional against the run. There's “Cause ppl talking to me like I’m slowin’ down. Opinions over statistics, of course” pic.twitter.com/nonbj7rQDA
“Cause ppl talking to me like I’m slowin’ down. Opinions over statistics, of course” pic.twitter.com/nonbj7rQDA— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) March 9, 2018 " target="_blank">plenty left in the short term for him to have significant impact on a new team in 2018.
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The Patriots have a need at corner, as they're about to let Malcolm Butler walk in free agency. They also fit the profile as a playoff fixture and a team that would make the most out of Sherman's talent, intelligence, leadership and competitive spirit.
Sherman is New England's preferred pickup, anyway, over former Patriot (and soon-to-be former Bronco) Aqib Talib, who's about two years older and is being traded to the Rams. Sherman better complements the skill set of New England's current No. 1 corner, Stephon Gilmore, and would come with better intangibles than those of Talib.
As perfect as the Patriots-Sherman fit might seem, New England is likely to face tough competition from four other teams, two from the AFC and two from the NFC. Those teams also represent two rising contenders for 2018 and two wild-card teams from 2017. Three of them even operate a Seahawks-like defense.
San Francisco 49ers
Seeing Sherman play for the Seahawks' archrivals down the west coast would be weird, but that whole Michael Crabtree and Jim Harbaugh thing is long gone. Now, the 49ers, with former Seahawks assistant Robert Saleh running things as defensive coordinator, can provide a solid second home for Sherman.
General manager John Lynch and the 49ers have all the money in the world, and they need a starting corner to play opposite promising second-year player Akhello Witherspoon. Even though Sherman will handle his Seattle exit with class, you can bet he would not mind lining up twice against the Seahawks next year, helping further the sudden power shift in the NFC West.
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Los Angeles Chargers
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and the Chargers should be thinking about adding Sherman even though, on the surface, it may look like the team doesn't need him given its fine cornerback play in 2017.
Casey Hayward was a premier shutdown corner last season, and Desmond King was terrific in slot coverage. Jason Verrett, however, continues to be hampered by lingering knee woes. Trevor Williams played well filling in for Verrett, but King and Williams are still very young.
Starting with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram up front, the Chargers are starting to build an elite defense that can carry them to big things. Sherman would give them a fiery defensive leader to match the intensity of Philip Rivers on offense. He would be a terrific locker-room influence on everyone.
Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel offer the third Seattle copycat destination. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford had a strong season starting together in Atlanta, but the Falcons were terrible in the slot with Brian Poole. If they were to sign Sherman, it would require sliding Alford back to the slot, where he has some good experience.
The downside here is the Falcons have already invested good money in both Trufant and Alford, and they have only $15 million or so in cap space. Sherman still merits consideration because of the Quinn connection and team's status as a contender.
The Titans got three new starters in the secondary last season. Former Patriot Logan Ryan was signed and former USC standout Adoree' Jackson was drafted to be the starting corners. At safety, Johnathan Cyprien got big money, and Kevin Byard broke out with the big season.
But beyond that at corner, LeShaun Sims is coming off a season-ending hamstring injury, and equally ineffective Brice McCain is a free agent. Ryan, like Trufant, has plenty of past experience in the slot and could slide there to make room for Sherman, whose experience would have a great influence on a key Year 2 for Jackson.
With the Patriots' Macolm Butler and the Redskins' Bashaud Breeland already on their radar, the Titans should have interest in Sherman, too. As the team moves on from Dick LeBeau and to new coordinator Dean Pees, it will be looking for corners to make more big plays and give up fewer. Sherman can do both.
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Speaking of LeBeau, here's bonus analysis of why another of his former teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers — should not go after Sherman:
The Steelers have hardly any cap space, and they recently made a splashy move for a pricey veteran cornerback when they signed Joe Haden fresh out of Cleveland in August. Haden are Artie Burns were not great together in 2017, but the team also saw the promise of undrafted corner Mike Hilton in the slot.
For now, Pittsburgh also has two huge personalities on offense in Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The addition of Sherman might make for one too many on a veteran team that sometimes has trouble getting everybody on the same page.
At this point, the Steelers' only advantage in getting Sherman would be keeping him away from the Patriots. That's not a good enough reason. They can only hope one of the four aforementioned teams does the job for them.