2016: Seahawks CB Richard Sherman on Colin Kaepernick's stance, society
The 49ers on Saturday turned a long-time enemy into a teammate when they agreed to a three-year deal with cornerback Richard Sherman.
The former Seahawks cornerback, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, became a free agent a day earlier when the Seattle cut him, then had dinner later that night in the Bay Area with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
A more formal meeting was held Saturday when Sherman, 29, also was given a physical. His streak of 105 consecutive games, which began his rookie season in 2011, ended in November with a right Achilles tendon tear. He also had a procedure to address bone spurs on his opposite Achilles tendon, and according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, has been in a walking boot recently.
Sherman has said he expects to begin running at full speed some time next month and should be full go by training camp. San Francisco's deal signals that team doctors agreed there would be no lingering medical issues.
Multiple reports said the deal was worth as much as $39 million. A large chunk of that is in incentives that protective the 49ers should Sherman get hurt or fail to recover from his Achilles issues.
The 49ers made cornerback their top priority this offseason. Only Ahkello Witherspoon, a 2017 third-round draft pick, had any measure of experience at outside cornerback heading into the new season. Sherman's addition means they will not be forced to use their first-round draft pick next month on the position.
More than that, it gives them the prototypical, tall, long-armed press cornerback that coordinator Robert Saleh's defense requires. Saleh knows Sherman after having served as an assistant in Seattle during that defense's heyday. Sherman will find two other familiar faces in the San Francisco locker room: former Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith and former defensive end Cassius Marsh.
Sherman became an arch villain to 49ers fans as the rowdy and outspoken Seahawks wrestled control of the NFC West away from the powerful 49ers five years ago. The brash cornerback famously batted a pass from receiver Michael Crabtree on a last-minute touchdown attempt in the 2013 NFC championship game, triumphantly ate a turkey leg at Levi's Stadium after a Thanksgiving win against the 49ers, and parried with head coach Jim Harbaugh, his former coach at Stanford.
After the pass break up to Crabtree, he offered the receiver a mock handshake and then flashed a "choking" gesture to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In that way, he promises to add a heavy dose of spice to a rivalry that had gone bland as the 49ers, who haven't beaten Seattle since 2013, quickly lost power.
That dynamic may be shifting again. With stalwarts like Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett heading elsewhere, the Seahawks now appear in the midst of a restructuring while the 49ers, winners of their last five games last season, are ascendant.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk perhaps spoke for many 49ers followers Saturday when he took to Twitter after news of Sherman's deal broke. "I take back anything disrespectful I might have said to you in our games before," he wrote to Sherman. "Welcome to the squad!!"
Furthermore, there have long been reports of resentment between Seattle's defensive players – Sherman in particular and quarterback Russell Wilson, who takes on an even more pivotal role with every major departure from the Seahawks defense. That promises to be a big storyline during the teams' two meetings this year as does the fact that Crabtree and the Oakland Raiders will visit Levi's Stadium.
Witherspoon said last year that he models his game after the similarly tall, long Sherman, and he's worked in the past with Sherman's trainers.
Sherman told Seattle's KIRO 97.3 radio last week that he preferred to play for a contender. But he also said he'd consider being the veteran on a young group. Witherspoon is 22 years old. Starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are 26.
"Would I go to a young secondary that is like we (the Seahawks) were when we were younger and help them grow and advance?" he said. "Sure, if the number looks right and the situation is comfortable for me and my family."