The dismantling of the Seattle Seahawks, the mini-NFL-dynasty version, continued Friday with the exit of cornerback Richard Sherman.
No one should be the least bit surprised, because everyone should have seen this coming. It was clear since late in the 2017 regular season that the deconstruction of the Seahawks as everybody had come to know them was at hand.
But now that process is accelerating, with the Seahawks agreeing this week to trade defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles and informing Sherman that he would be released Friday. And it is notable in terms of what comes next for the team and Sherman.
The Seahawks, as a team of lasting significance, were not the New England Patriots. Not anything close. But they were pretty good. They won one Super Bowl and came within an ill-fated play call at the 1-yard line from beating the Patriots in another. They were annual contenders. And they were interesting, with a group of players who were thoughtful and opinionated and engaging along with being productive on the field.
Sherman was a big part of that.
“We’ve had the spotlight for a long time,” Sherman said after an October game this past season. “We’ve had the spotlight on us every game, every week. I think a lot of people just look for us to fall and look for us to fail and hope that it comes this game. And they keep watching us hoping that it’s this game or this game or this game. But we’ve had the spotlight on us for a long time. I don’t think the market necessarily matters in our case. I think we’ve turned Seattle into a big-market team. We’ve got a lot of Pro Bowlers, all-pros, a lot of jersey sales. We get a lot of media attention. So I think as small of a market theoretically as it is, we get a lot of attention.”
But will the spotlight linger much longer? Bennett is gone. Sherman is gone. Tailback Marshawn Lynch is long gone. Safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril face uncertain NFL futures because of injuries. The “Legion of Boom” secondary is no more. The defense will never be the same.
There was talk Friday about the possibility of Sherman re-signing with the Seahawks for contract terms more favorable to the team. Sherman was to count $13.2 million against the salary cap for the 2018 season as he entered the final season of a four-year, $56 million contract. Instead, the Seahawks save $11 million in cap space by releasing him.
But usually when there is talk about a player re-signing with a team after being released, it ends up being just that: talk. Players and teams generally move on under those circumstances.
Sherman hits the free agent market as a soon-to-be 30-year-old cornerback coming off a season shortened by a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. That will make the market for him extremely interesting. He has been among the league’s top pass defenders, able to change a game and alter an offense’s approach by making it terribly risky to throw any passes in his vicinity. But can he still be that?
Teams will be interested, for sure. But will Sherman, now serving as his own agent, get the kind of contract offers he wants? It will be a significant story line. The Patriots, set to lose cornerback Malcolm Butler after his still-mysterious benching for the Super Bowl defeat to the Eagles, are a particularly intriguing possibility.
Some pieces of a potential contender remain in place in Seattle, beginning with quarterback Russell Wilson. The franchise’s football decision-making team, with General Manager John Schneider and Coach Pete Carroll, is top-notch. The retooling is in good hands. For the Seahawks, being different needn’t necessarily mean being decidedly worse.
But, rest assured, the Seahawks will be far, far different. And that will be an adjustment for everyone who follows the NFL.
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