Richard Sherman was one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL for nearly a decade, even though his best days may be behind him as the three-time All-Pro enters free agency for the second time in his career. Sherman is still one of the top cornerbacks in this free agent class despite a 2020 season that was hindered by a calf injury that limited him to just five games.
When healthy, Sherman is still one of the game's top cornerbacks. Just look at his 2019 season, when he logged 61 tackles, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions in earning his fifth Pro Bowl appearance. Opposing cornerbacks had just a 62.3 passer rating when targeting Sherman, who allowed just one touchdown on the year. Teams courting Sherman in free agency will be looking for the player that still is one of the game's top cornerbacks when healthy -- a playmaker and a leader for a young defense. Sherman believes he still has two good years left before hanging up his cleats for good.
We'll look at every report and rumor for Sherman in free agency below, along with a scouting report on the free agent cornerback. We'll also look at some of the ideal landing spots for Sherman, as the cornerback is set to leave the San Francisco 49ers.
Top free agent landing spots for Sherman
How can the Saints afford Sherman in free agency when they are currently $11.95 million over the salary cap (per Over The Cap)? There is a key reason why New Orleans may court Sherman anyway, as the defense has a deep connection to the "Legion of Boom" days.
Kris Richard was hired as the Saints' defensive backs coach this offseason, the man who is credited as the architect of the "Legion of Boom" defense -- where Sherman earned three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections and was the leader on a Seattle Seahawks defense that won Super Bowl XLVIII. The Saints are expected to shift to a Cover-3 scheme in the secondary, where Sherman thrived in Seattle and San Francisco -- so why not entertain the Saints as a possibility.
New Orleans has become one of the best defenses in the NFL over the past two seasons and the Saints have been Super Bowl contenders every season. For a team needing a player to help the Saints capture that elusive second Super Bowl title, why not bring in a leader such as Sherman to get them over the hump. A physical, aggressive corner of Sherman's caliber is just what New Orleans needs.
Sherman has never settled in the East Coast, but New York would be an excellent place to start for the veteran cornerback as he enters the final years of his career. Former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is now the head coach of the Jets, bringing his Cover 3-style scheme that Sherman was immensely successful in during his time in San Francisco. The Jets have a need at cornerback, which is where Sherman would fit in helping young players integrate into Saleh's defense.
Saleh and Sherman were also together in Seattle when Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator, so there's plenty of familiarity between the two. Sherman is a student of the game -- and Saleh knows how to get the best out of him.
Another connection in Vegas awaits Sherman that will intrigue him. Bradley is the new Raiders defensive coordinator, who Sherman had tremendous success with back in Seattle nearly a decade ago. Bradley still runs a Cover 3 defense at a high rate, as the Los Angeles Chargers ran a variation of Cover 3 on 55.7% of their defensive snaps in 2020 (per Pro Football Focus).
The Raiders could use help on defense across the board, allowing the seventh-most passing yards in the league as the cornerbacks allowed a 95.3 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks (12th-highest in the NFL). Cornerback isn't a primary need for Vegas, but Sherman is an ideal fit in Bradley's defense -- and instantly improves the Raiders' secondary. A short-term deal would be beneficial for both.
Scouting report (pros and cons)
- Excellent scheme fit in Cover 3
- Veteran leader
- Strong personality
- Age (turns 33 in March)
- Health (coming off calf injury, had ruptured Achilles in past)
Free agent timeline
March 16: Saints among teams showing interest in Sherman
After releasing Janoris Jenkins, the Saints are showing interest in Sherman as his free agent campaign begins to heat up (NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports). Kris Richard was hired as the Saints' defensive backs coach this offseason, and Sherman would be a strong fit when New Orleans switches to a Cover 3 scheme.
Feb. 17: Sherman admits split with 49ers is coming
Sherman admitted he had a conversation with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch where the two sides agreed they would likely part ways this offseason, allowing him to seek a new team.
"It's been made pretty clear," Sherman said. "It was a good conversation, nothing crazy. Just a good conversation about where they are and where I am, and their plans. We were both very positive and as good as you can be in a situation like this."