The Seahawks shut out the Giants 23-0 at the Meadowlands this past Sunday, which means that if Seattle is going to play another game away from home this season it will almost certainly be back in the Meadowlands—at MetLife Stadium in February for Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks haven’t technically clinched home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs—they need to win one of their last two games to secure the NFCs #1 seed. But with both these games at their home CenturyLink Field (vs. ARI & vs. STL), where they haven’t lost since 2011, the odds are heavily in their favor.
Russell Wilson was prepping for a start in the Rose Bowl when the Seahawks last lost at home, and his unique development since being selected in the 3rd round of last year’s draft is the most obvious reason for the Seahawks’ recent success. But a defensive player—another Seahawks draft day ‘sleeper’—may be playing just as big of a role in Seattle’s emergence.
A year before Seattle drafted Wilson, they selected CB Richard Sherman in the 5th round (154th overall) of the 2011 draft. In 2012, just his second season, Sherman had 8 INTs, 3 FFs, 1 TD and was Pro Football Focus’ second ranked CB. Never one to keep quiet about his abilities, Sherman inferred he was on Darrelle Revis’ level after the 2012 season, and a much-publicized Sherman-Revis Twitter War ensued.
Though Revis sat out most of 2012 with a torn ACL, he has long been the measuring stick for NFL CBs, considered the leagues best. But take a closer look and the numbers show that Sherman is just as good, if not better:
|Cover Snaps/ Target
|Cover Snaps/ Rec
|6.5 (28th in NFL)
|15.8 (5th in NFL)
|6.9 (12th in NFL)
|14.8 (2nd in NFL)
|Cover Snaps/ Target
|Cover Snaps/ Rec
|8.9 (2nd in NFL)
|17.3 (1st in NFL)
|9.0 (1st in NFL)
|16.5 (2nd in NFL)
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Coverage Snaps per Target=A Pro Football Focus created statistic; the amount of times a cornerback is the primary man in coverage relative to how many times his receiver is targeted.
Coverage Snaps per Reception= A Pro Football Focus created statistic; the amount of times a cornerback is the primary man in coverage relative to how many receptions he allows.
Compare the last two full healthy seasons of each player, and their numbers are jarringly similar. This year, Sherman and Revis rank 1st and 2nd respectively among NFL CBs in PFFs Coverage Snaps per Target statistic (explained above), meaning there are no CBs that QBs are more afraid of. And although Revis has allowed substantially less yards thus far this year (199, to be exact), one could argue these numbers are a bit skewed; Sherman was charged with giving up a week 5 73-yard-touchdown to TY Hilton that was more a product of a miscommunication with Safety Earl Thomas than actually getting beat in coverage.
One would have a much more difficult time arguing against Sherman’s playmaking ability, though. In spite of being targeted so sparingly, Sherman was tied for second in the NFL with 8 INTs last year, while also forcing 3 fumbles. After securing his 6th INT of the year this past Sunday, he is now tied for first in that category in 2013—with of course none bigger than the interception he returned 58-yards for a touchdown with under 3 minutes to play in week 4 at Houston to tie the game at 20. Seattle went on to win that game 23-20 in Overtime.
As a 5th rounder, Sherman is only making a base salary of $555,000 this year. That rises to $645, 000 next year—the last year of his contract. However, the new CBA stipulates that a player & team can renegotiate a player’s rookie deal after his third year. And considering the year Sherman is having, it would seemingly make sense for both sides to rip up this rookie deal and hit the negotiating table.
Back in September, Jason visited this topic and had the following to say about the cornerback marketplace:
There may be no more difficult market to balance right now than the cornerback market. To say it crashed would be the understatement of the year. Players that many thought could be potentially franchised were signing $4 and $5 million dollar per year contracts. It stands to be seen whether or not this was people like myself simply overvaluing a group of players or if the new spread offenses are convincing teams that overspending on one player is not as important as balance in the secondary. Sherman’s new contract will likely put that in perspective.
At the top of the market is Revis at $16 million a season. Not only is Revis’ contract an outlier but for Revis to get that money, which he was desperate to get as it was extremely important to he and his agents to be the highest paid defensive player, he gave up all guaranteed money. Considering he is coming off an ACL injury that is a very risky move for a player.
If the high end market still exists Sherman will probably work from the contracts given to Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers and Cortland Finnegan who would be the young player comparables. Also in that upper echelon pay group is Champ Bailey who is significantly older and has more of his money tied in incentives, but because of age I don’t consider Bailey to be a consideration.
In addition I think an important contract to look at is the contract Revis had leading into 2013 with the New York Jets. That contract was specifically designed to be a somewhat “fair market” value contract when an outlier existed. In that case it was Asomugha earning over $16 million a year from the Raiders.
While I certainly see where Jason is coming from, I view Sherman as one of the NFLs most unique players. Sherman is a Stanford graduate who is supremely confident in his abilities. I believe he understands the business side of the game and that he’ll likely only have one chance to sign a massive on-field deal. Because of this, I don’t think that the “existence of a high end market” is going to matter. Sherman will create his own market place—he is going to reach for a contract in the new Revis range in terms of annual value, with substantially more in guaranteed money.
Remember, the NFL is now a passing league. Revis proved how valuable he was to the Jets during their back-to-back AFC Championship runs, as the ability to ‘shut down’ half the field can not be understated. If the Seahawks don’t offer Sherman what he feels he’s worth, he won’t hesitate to hit the open market once eligible. And if Sherman does hit the open market, there will be a team that bites and pays Sherman what he feels he’s worth.Andrew Cohen @ajcohen03 email@example.com