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49ers 90-in-90: Can Richard Sherman top his 2019 season?

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is cornerback Richard Sherman.

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Most fans who watched Richard Sherman play football in 2018 could see the Hall of Fame being cornerback wasn’t the same player he has been in years past. Slowed by an Achilles injury, Sherman was “fine,” but he lacked the explosiveness and the change of direction necessary to excel at the level Sherm was used to.

That changed in 2019.

Sherman’s season couldn’t have started any better after he intercepted an errant pass from Jameis Winston and returned that throw for an interception. Just like that, Sherman was “back.” Sherman was in the top-15 in completion percentage allowed, fourth in passer rating against, and only allowed 8.4 yards per reception, which was third in the NFL. You name it, and Sherman was probably near the top of that statistic. Where Sherman’s game went to another level, to me, was being aggressive and consistent against the run. His 20 stops were the second-most in Sherman’s nine-year career. He also only missed four tackles, which was tied for the second-fewest in Sherman’s career as well.

Equally impressive was Sherman’s ability to find a way to challenge his teammates. We remember handshake gate with Baker Mayfield. Sherm found a way to fuel the 49ers. He’d go out of his way during press conferences to complement the rest of the defense—often listing everyone that stepped on the field. He went out of his way to protect Nick Bosa, a rookie that had some questionable social media history. Sherman seemed like the ideal teammate.

Basic Info

Age: 32 (March 30)

Experience: accrued seasons

Height: 6’3

Weight: 195 pounds

Cap Status

Sherman is entering the final year of his contract. He’ll have a cap number of $13.9 million in 2020. Sherman’s guaranteed salary is $8,000,000.

Why he might regress in 2020

PFF has painted this picture that Sherman was near flawless in 2019. Sherman was deserving of All-Pro recognition, but I don’t think he was as good as PFF labeled him. All I’m saying is he was closer to the fifth-best cornerback than the first. That is far from criticism. Sherman was great in every facet you ask from a cornerback.

At 32, nobody knows when ‘father time’ will show his face. Sherman has never been the type of player that relies on athleticism. He’s a much better athlete than people make him out to be, but Sherm is so far ahead mentally where even if he does lose a step, it’s tough to imagine Sherman’s play “falling off a cliff” in one year. I’m fascinated with how the 49ers handle him next offseason.

What to expect in 2020

Next year will be determined by how Sherman plays this year. Richard is healthy, which matters. You don’t want to enter a season fresh off rehab or having to worry about nicks and bruises, especially at this age. I’m expecting Sherman to continue his excellence and leadership. What he does on the field is imperative, but how Sherman takes Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon under his wing will go along way in the 49ers’ success in the defensive backfield as well. Sherman is one of the most important players on this roster.