Richard Sherman will go down as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL from his era. As the 33-year-old’s career nears its final stages, the five-time Pro Bowl selection is thinking about his immediate future and where he will be playing in 2021.
After a rebound season in 2019 with the San Francisco 49ers, injuries derailed Sherman in 2020. He began the season on injured reserve due to a calf strain, not returning to action until the end of November. Ultimately, he played in just five games and recorded a single interception.
Sherman, who serves as his own agent, likely knew he would face a tough market this offseason. The NFL lost $4 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic the salary cap shrank for the first time in a decade. On the wrong side of 30 and showing signs of his age, clubs prioritized younger talent with more upside.
With the 2021 NFL Draft now closing in, general managers are focused on addressing their teams’ needs via rookies. Once the draft passes, Sherman expects to find a job.
“Well, apparently we got to wait ’til the draft happens before anything else shakes out, because everybody has their hopes and dreams in the draft, which is understandable. You turn 33, and then it’s like, ‘We’ll wait until we get a young pup; and if we can’t get a young pup, we’ll take an old fool.’ So that’s where we’re sitting.”Richard Sherman on when he’ll sign with NFL team via The Cris Collinsworth Podcast (H/T NBC Sports)
While fans will likely need to wait at least a month before Sherman signs with a team, let’s examine some potential landing spots for the 6-foot-3 cornerback.
Richard Sherman signs with Las Vegas Raiders
While Sherman hasn’t talked a ton about his free-agency plans, he did express interest in playing for the Las Vegas Raiders. An even greater sign of this potential pairing, head coach Jon Gruden was toeing the lines of tampering earlier this year by talking about the talented cornerback.
It’s been a strange offseason for the Raiders, to say the least. Cornerback remains a huge need for this team and there have been no signs of the position being addressed to this point. Damon Arnette, the team’s 2020 first-round pick, was one of the worst cover cornerbacks in the NFL last season. On the opposite side, Trayvon Mullen was a liability on his best days.
Sherman showed he can be a lockdown cornerback in 2019 and he might still have that ability in him. We know his mentality would work with Gruden and the opportunity to be a team’s No. 1 cornerback would also be appealing. This still seems like the likeliest destination.
New Orleans Saints upgrade at CB2
Due to major salary-cap issues, the New Orleans Saints were forced to cut Janoris Jenkins. The starting job opposite Marshon Lattimore could be addressed in the 2021 NFL Draft and that might be the team’s focus for the time being. If the right player doesn’t become available, Sean Payton should call Richard Sherman.
In a division that is loaded with wide receivers, the Saints can’t afford to take the CB2 position lightly. There’s also an important connection here. Kris Richard joined New Orleans this offseason as the team’s secondary coach, helping to implement the Cover 3 defense. That is the scheme Sherman thrives in and he’d be reunited with a coach he knows very well. It would take some financial maneuvering, but this is a real possibility.
Cleveland Browns bolster secondary
The Browns don’t have to sign Richard Sherman. Theoretically, they could allow 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams to retain his starting role opposite of Denzel Ward. The 23-year-old dealt with nerve damage in his shoulder last season, but he is making good progress. But thrusting him back into the starting role is a huge risk for a Super Bowl contender.
Williams received a 53.6 PFF coverage grade in 2019, allowing a 91.5 passer rating to opponents when targeted. By comparison, quarterbacks had an absurdly-low 46.8 passer rating against Sherman in 2019 and 69.6 QB rating in 2020. Sherman provides Super Bowl experience, would be a great mentor for Ward and could be the piece that helps put Cleveland’s defense over the top.
Richard Sherman reunites with Robert Saleh
Speaking of past relationships with coaches, Sherman and Robert Saleh are very close. He encouraged the Detroit Lions to hire his former defensive coordinator then praised the New York Jets when they struck first. The two are very much cut from the same cloth, but that’s not the only reason why this fit makes sense.
New York is set to enter the 2021 season with 2019 sixth-round pick Blessuan Austin and 2020 fifth-round pick Bryce Hall as its starting corners on the outside. Saleh can do wonders with young talent, but even he can’t make this a quality secondary without some help. Sherman would provide a veteran to help lead a young secondary and would serve as a trusted No. 1 cornerback in this defense. This would be a fantastic addition for the Jets.