It started innocently enough as just another offseason rumor, perhaps more speculative than anything: The Seahawks would be willing to trade Richard Sherman. The perennial Pro Bowl cornerback initially laughed it off but days later he had a different tone. “I wouldn’t want to leave this city and my guys, but understand it’s a business and organizational philosophies change.”

On Wednesday, Seahawks general manager John Schneider took it a step further.

“What you’ve seen lately in the news is real,” Schneider told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” show. “That’s on both sides.”

Schneider’s comments were part of a discussion about Sherman’s relationship with the team after the 2016 season.

“I think we’re a very unique organization in that regard. We have a great relationship with a lot of our players,” Schneider said. ”There’s very much an openness. ... It’s just open communication. He knows what’s going on. We know what’s going on. I don’t know if anything would ever happen, but like I tell people all the time, 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with, we don’t follow through with. But at least we’ve opened that door, gone down the road and seen what’s behind Door A or Door B.”

To recap: The Seahawks aren’t necessarily planning to trade Sherman but the possibility of shipping him out of town has been discussed. And through it all, the organization has been up front with Sherman about it.

“This isn’t a secret like this just came out of nowhere,” Schneider said. “People find things out and we’re not going to lie to each other and we’re not going to BS each other. It’s going to be all laid out, and like I said, that doesn’t happen everywhere. We have open lines of communication between our coaching staff and our player personnel staff. It goes through player development, it goes through our sports science group. There’s a lot going on there.”

Sherman ranked 10th among all cornerbacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus, though it’s worth pointing out that he earned the lowest pass-coverage grade of his career. In fact, his pass-coverage grades have declined the past three seasons. Again, this is all relative; Sherman ranked 15th in pass coverage in 2016, just behind Marcus Peters and Patrick Peterson.

There could be an easy explanation, however: Sherman played last season with an undisclosed MCL injury. As’s Andy Benoit points out, that could go a long way toward explaining Sherman’s struggles with changing direction. But the cornerback is also 28 years old with two years left on a contract that carries cap figures of $13.6 million (2017) and $13.2 million (2018).

Sherman is an integral part of the Seahawks’ secondary and it’s not like there are better options on the roster that would allow the team to trade him. That said, this unit suffered when safety Earl Thomas went down last December, and perhaps the idea of a healthy Thomas returning to the lineup would more than compensate for the loss of Sherman should the right deal come along.