When the 49ers signed Richard Sherman to a three-year deal last March, they of course hoped the ex-Seahawks All-Pro would continue to be a shut-down cornerback on the NFL’s best receivers.
But they also wanted Sherman for his intelligence, experience and character. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan believed Sherman could help change the culture and personality of the team.
“Richard is one of the premier competitors Kyle and I have ever encountered,” Lynch told reporters then. “We look forward to him sharing his wealth of experience and his passion for the game of football with our team.”
Now, looking back at Sherman’s play and impact after his first season with the Niners, nothing’s changed.
Sherman recovered from an injury in his final season in Seattle and started 14 games. He didn’t have an interception, but opposing offenses often stayed away from him, too, and targeted other defensive backs, wary of his skill set. As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, Sherman ranked third on the team in defensive snaps played (836) and was a standout on a unit with many flaws. The analytic website Pro Football Focus noted Sherman was the best cornerback in the NFL with an allowed reception rate of just one per 20.2 snaps, ahead of Casey Hayward (Chargers, 18.8) and Patrick Peterson (Cardinals, 18.2).
“We couldn’t be happier with the way he was in terms of using his experience – his championship pedigree – to bring up those around him,” Lynch told Branch. “Not only (the cornerbacks) but throughout the team. You can see what has made him a special player over the years. You think you know, but you never truly know until you’re around someone, and we got to see it firsthand.”
Sherman’s deal with San Francisco is full of options and outs, for both player and team, but Branch reported Lynch and Shanahan are resolved to bring Sherman back for his second season, which will earn him $7 million in salary and a possible $2 million in bonuses.
Sherman wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl, or All-Pro, but the 49ers believe he’s important going toward 2019, when he should be even healthier than he was in 2018 (when he was recovering from surgery and his offseason rehab was limited).
And Sherman is confident the 49ers will be much better than the 4-12 record they produced this past season. He cited a bad string of injuries as one thing that held back the team.
“Some guys got some valuable experience,” he told reporters after the final game, a loss to the Rams. “It’s been good learning. Obviously, it’s unfortunate the way it played out, but next year, we’ll have another chance at it.”