Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers were expected to add some players to their secondary. They waited until the third round to add a corner, where the Niners selected Michigan’s, Ambry Thomas. San Francisco also took Oregon corner, Deommodore Lenoir, in the fifth round and added USC safety Talanoa Hufanga eight picks later.
Thomas, Lenoir and Hufanga will likely need some more seasoning before they see regular snaps. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan did a ton of work early in the offseason. After re-signing veterans Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley, Jaquiski Tartt and K’Waun Williams, it looks like the 49ers are set in the secondary.
But one player who remains a free agent is former All-Pro Richard Sherman. Despite a sparkling resume, the 33-year-old has yet to ink a new deal with an NFL team. Sherman spoke with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith before the draft and said he is open to re-joining the Niners for the 2021 campaign (h/t Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Bay Area).
“A return to San Francisco isn’t out of the cards,” Sherman told Smith. “I’ve had conversations with Seattle, I’ve had conversations with the Saints, the Raiders. We just gotta wait to see how things play out.”
Sherman suffered a calf injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season, which limited him to just five games. His cap hit was $13.9 million in the final year of his three-year deal with San Francisco. Pro Football Focus gave Sherman an overall grade of 67.7 last season, down significantly from the 88.9 grade he received for his efforts during the 2019 campaign.
Although the 49ers appear set at corner for next season, Lynch and Shanahan said they’re open to bringing back Sherman during their Zoom call following the second day of the NFL Draft.
“Sherm is in a good situation,” Shanahan said. “He is a businessman, and he is going to find out the best opportunity for him. I know teams are going to want him, but when you’re in a situation like him at his age , which these guys do when you have the credentials he does, you sit back, and you watch it.
“You find the best opportunity for yourself. I know Sherm is probably going to want to go to a contender, just knowing him and how competitive he is. He will sit back and be smart and make the best decision for himself, but when you got a guy you trust and you know how competitive he is, no, we would never rule him out.”
Sherman talked to Chan following Lynch and Shanahan’s media availability and told her that he wants to be in a situation where he can win another championship. Joining a contending team is the highest priority for him.
San Francisco checks off the boxes for Sherman. The 49ers have a roster that is capable of challenging for a title next season. Lynch said he remains in contact with Sherman, but they haven’t discussed football lately.
“You never count Sherm out,” Lynch said. “Sherm was a big part of this culture, a tremendous leader. Both Kyle and I consider him a friend. We haven’t really been in communication, we do text from time to time, nothing about football.
“I think Sherm is being patient and kind of waiting it out for the right situation, and we will see where that goes.”
As Lynch points out, Sherman was one of the leaders on the team during his tenure in the Bay Area. Many of the young players raved about Sherman’s leadership qualities and how much they learned about the game from the veteran.
With Sherman missing 11 games last season, Verrett took advantage of the opportunity and earned himself a new deal. As of now, it looks like the three starting corners for the Niners will be Verrett, Moseley and Williams. But as we saw last season, you can never have enough depth.
Verrett, Moseley and Williams missed 15 games combined last season, so adding a veteran at this point makes sense. San Francisco has a little more than $18 million in cap space (per Over the Cap) but still needs to sign the incoming rookies.
Should the 49ers bring back Sherman for one more season if the price is right?
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