The 49ers could use an infusion of talent in their secondary, and former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman on Thursday indicated he’s interested bringing a former Seahawks teammate into the fold.
“Would I love to play with Earl V. Thomas III? Sure,” Sherman said when asked about the Seahawks’ pending free-agent safety. “I would love to. I would love to have him back in the locker room, but I’m sure he’ll have a plethora of opportunities, but I’m sure we’re gonna throw our hat in the ring.”
Thomas, 29, is expected to test the open market in the spring after failing to agree to a long-term contract extension with Seattle. He’s recovering from a broken leg suffered against the Arizona Cardinals in September but would fit nicely in a 49ers secondary that could use another veteran presence.
The 49ers are expected to have roughly $64 million in cap space in 2019, according to Overthecap.com, which ranks eighth in the NFL. Thomas would likely command something in the neighborhood of $13 million per season, which would be tops in the league at the position with Chiefs star Eric Berry, who signed a six-year, $78 million contract last February.
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“I think this is a pretty attractive destination as is, but money is the best recruiter,” Sherman said. “I’ll go give the best recruiting pitch, but if they say, ‘Hey, we’ve got $7 for you,’ that’s not going to matter. And I could do the worst recruiting pitch and if they pay him like a top player, money talks.”
The 49ers run the same defensive scheme as Seattle under former Seahawks assistant Robert Saleh. Thomas would provide much-needed stability at the back end, where the team has used five players at free safety this season: Adrian Colbert, Jimmie Ward, D.J. Reed, Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum Jr.
The lack of continuity has been a significant issue throughout the season, but the defense has stabilized over the past month, with Exum and rookie Marcell Harris starting the past three games together. They form one of nine safety combinations used this season.
“When you get continuity and guys playing the same over and over again ... you just get comfortable and you understand each other. You know how you’re going to play things. You know how to play off of each other,” Saleh said. “There’s more trust where people can just get lined up. Through repetition, you gain trust. Through repetition, you get more confident that you can align and not have to worry about other people aligning.”
Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro. He has 28 career interceptions, while the 49ers head into Week 17 ranked dead last in the NFL with two.