Now that the excitement from the 2021 NFL Draft has begun to subside, the focus shifts to the available free agents.
The San Francisco 49ers did some maneuvering during the offseason and restructured a few deals to maximize their cap space going into the 2022 season. The team still needs to sign the eight rookies chosen at the draft to contracts, but as of now, they have just north of $18 million in cap space, per Over the Cap.
One area where the Niners could use some depth is in the secondary. The team re-signed veterans Emmanuel Moseley, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett to short-term deals but lost Ahkello Witherspoon to the Seattle Seahawks in free agency.
Now, it looks like the 49ers could bring back another veteran who was part of the squad last season. Chris Biderman of the Sac Bee reports that soon-to-be Hall of Famer Richard Sherman has had preliminary discussions with general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan about returning in 2022.
Lynch and Shanahan praised the veteran during post-draft media availability and said they were open to bringing the 33-year-old cornerback into the fold for next season.
“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.
“I know Sherm’s probably going to want to go to a contender just knowing him and how competitive he is. He’ll sit back and be smart and make the right decision for himself. But, when you’ve got a guy that you trust and care about and you also know how competitive he is, we will never rule him out.”
As things stand, the Niners would certainly be a team that fits Sherman's criteria as a contender.
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. Pro Football Focus named Sherman and Williams as the best cornerback duo in the NFL for their efforts in 2019.
Verrett, Moseley and Williams missed 15 games combined last season, so adding a veteran at this point makes sense since you can never have enough depth. Before the 2020 season, many of the Niners talked about going out and finishing the job after losing in the Super Bowl the season before.
All of the injuries resulted in a wasted year in 2020 and two of the veterans from the secondary — Tartt and Williams — said they wanted to run it back one more time with the members of the unit that helped San Francisco have the top-rated pass defense in 2019. There seems to be a bitter taste in the mouths of the players who have been with the team for the past two seasons.
Sherman’s leadership qualities are undeniable. Several players and coaches raved about how he helped several of the younger players and Sherman's presence in the locker room.
Sherman told Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Bay Area that he expects negotiations to pick up now that the draft has concluded. Several veterans remain on the open market ahead of the upcoming OTAs.
Lynch and Shanahan have done a great of maintaining financial flexibility this offseason. Even though it’s unknown what level Sherman will be at next season, it’s worth taking a flier on a player of his pedigree.
Do you think Sherman will be with the 49ers next season? Or does he end up signing elsewhere?