ALAMEDA, Calif. — Richard Sherman spent seven years tormenting the San Francisco 49ers with his lockdown coverage, colorful trash talk and celebratory turkey eating at midfield.
Now he has decided to join the enemy, signing a three-year contract with the 49ers almost immediately after being let go by the Seattle Seahawks last Friday.
“It’s a little odd to put on a different jersey. I’m sure it will take some getting used to for me,” Sherman said Monday. “I’ve spent a lot of time wearing a red jersey in the Bay so I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out.”
The former Stanford star has returned to the Bay Area since he wanted to stay on the West Coast to be close to his parents in Los Angeles and his soon-to-be wife’s family in Seattle.
Getting the chance to stay in the NFC West and play the Seahawks twice each year was an added bonus.
“It definitely had a part of it,” he said. “I’d love to get to play in that stadium again in different colours. I’m going to try my best to ruin their day. I do want a chance to show what I can do out there.”
Sherman, who turns 30 later this month, is coming off an Achilles tendon injury that cost him half of the 2017 season. Sherman also had a cleanup surgery on his opposite ankle during the off-season. That led to Seattle’s decision that he wasn’t worth his $13 million salary for 2018.
Sherman became a star in Seattle, bringing a brash attitude and willingness to speak out on any topic to go along with his stellar play. His best seasons came in 2013 and 2014 when Seattle made two Super Bowl appearances.
Sherman still was one of the better cornerbacks the past three seasons, ranking second in the NFL by allowing just 49.2 per cent of passes against him to be caught, according to Pro Football Focus.
Getting cut only adds fuel to Sherman.
“It kind of reignited that gasoline fire that I always had burning,” he said. “It just threw a lot more gas on it and I appreciate that and I’m thankful for this motivation and inspiration. I have a lot of people to show. I’m excited about those prospects.”
That fire was always evident against the 49ers, most notably when he went on a postgame interview tirade after sealing the NFC championship in January 2014 by deflecting a pass that turned a potential game-winning touchdown for the 49ers into an interception for the Seahawks.
The following season Sherman celebrated a Thanksgiving night win at Levi’s Stadium by eating a turkey leg at midfield, although he said that was prompted by NBC producers who told him to “eat the turkey” during the interview.
“You’re excited after the game. You’re winning. We weren’t thinking anything else honestly. We were just enjoying the moment,” he said. “We played pretty well that game. I honestly didn’t think it was disrespectful. But people can take it any way they want to.”
Sherman, who negotiated his own contract, described the few days after being released by Seattle as “chaos.” He was at the NFLPA meetings in Las Vegas when the Seahawks gave him the news and he heard from 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan almost as soon as the transaction hit the waiver wire.
Sherman then flew to the Bay Area, where he had dinner with Shanahan on Friday night and met with defensive co-ordinator Robert Saleh, a former assistant in Seattle.
He underwent medical tests Saturday before going to the 49ers facility for five hours of negotiations. After coming to an agreement, Sherman called Seahawks general manager John Schneider to give him a chance to match. Schneider declined but told him it was a solid deal, although he might want to tinker with the roster bonuses.
Sherman also called the Raiders and Lions to tell them he had made his decision and then signed the deal.
“Neither side wanted to walk away without a deal because we felt like there was a great relationship and great understanding and something both sides could benefit from,” he said. “We came to an agreement and it was awesome.”
Pro Football Talk reported that Sherman will get a $3 million signing bonus, a $2 million roster bonus if he passes a physical the first day of training camp and a $2 million salary for 2018. He also has $2 million in per-game roster bonuses, a $1 million bonus if he plays 90 per cent of the defensive snaps, a $1 million incentive for making the Pro Bowl, and $2 million for being an AP All-Pro.
He has a $7 million base salary in the final two years of the deal, which goes to $8 million if he makes the Pro Bowl the previous year. He also has per-game roster bonuses, playing time incentives and incentives for the Pro Bowl and All-Pro in those seasons.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS