Richard Sherman’s Contract is Still a Bad Contract

Richard Sherman went on a tweet storm today because he hit his incentives and now wants to tell everyone who doubted him that the $9 million per year contract he signed is a good contract.

Not every agent gets the best contract they can get for their player, which is a part of his argument. Not every agent is that qualified. Plenty of agents get draft picks because they’re ready to pay for training or they’re good at networking, not because they’re contract experts.

Not every agent being very good is a fair assumption. I agree. But most are pretty good. And all of them are more competent than Richard Sherman.

My real issue with the rant is that he called out Joe Thomas for correctly stating that Pro Football Focus’ cornerback of the decade got duped into signing a three-year prove it deal without visiting any other teams because his ego was enticed by the potential of playing the Seattle Seahawks twice a season and negotiating his own contract.

The soon to be 30-year old Sherman was coming off a torn Achilles, but he was still considered a top cornerback and was on his way to being named the top cornerback of the decade, a real insight into the kind of player he has been. That has value, despite the torn Achilles, he was on the road to a comeback.

Just like fellow Legion of Boom brethren Earl Thomas was considered a top safety when he went down with a broken leg, then David Mulugheta of Athlete’s First signed him to a near market setting $13.75 million per year deal.

The torn Achilles doesn’t excuse him though. This is a bad contract.

It was essentially a prove-it deal. It still is.

He received $9 million per year with a $3 million signing bonus. The average per year and the $5 million signing bonus are below what Aqib Talib signed…in 2014, at 28 years old himself. Granted, $2 million was guaranteed after passing a physical, which he knew he would pass, so let’s say $5 million was guaranteed. It’s essentially what a lesser player, who wasn’t coming off an injury, signed four years earlier, not something to brag about.

The $3 million signing bonus means he could have been cut by a team with a ton of cap space with just a $2 million consequence this year. It was essentially $8.8 million in cash in year one to get the right to play for a hard to reach potential $13.05 million per year over the life of the contract.

Sherman had only $7 million in salary for this year, year two. If he got injured, there goes the $2 million roster bonus right away.

A number he essentially only reaches if he plays at an AP All-Pro level every year, plays 90% of snaps, makes the Pro Bowl, and plays every game. The contract’s per game roster bonuses total $2 million in each season. Which means $125,000 is tied to him being active every game, so if he had any issues coming back from the injury, he would’ve lost out on that money.

So he signed a one-year prove it deal that’s three year built in earnings puts him in the much less prestigious slot cornerback or wide receiver market (that $9 million area) for the right to be paid as what would now be the 10th highest paid cornerback for hitting All Pro level incentives.

The deal is more like an $11 million per year deal if he hits everything else, but doesn’t play like an All Pro.

The same offseason Sherman negotiated this deal, Donte Moncrief got a one-year prove-it deal with the Jaguars for $9.6 million guaranteed. Devin Funchess got $10 million from the Colts this year with $7 million guaranteed.

The only guarantee that Richard Sherman got was his $3 million signing bonus.

And if Sherman wasn’t playing well, they just would have cut him. So it was a one-year prove it deal with $8.8 million in cash for year one for all intents and purposes. One-year prove it deals for top talent are worth much more than that in cash.

Talk about protecting yourself and maximizing your value!

According to Over The Cap, he was the most valuable cornerback in the NFL in 2019 with a production value of $14.7 million. So he produced at this top of market level, while busting his ass to get incentives that will just pay him what he should have signed for. And he won’t reach those incentives every year.

Even if you’re coming off an Achilles injury, as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in a market where Trumaine Johnson and Josh Norman had earned $14.5 and $15 million per year in years prior, you’re supposed to get $13 million per year. You’re not supposed to have to keep proving you’re one of the best players in the league to earn that.

Sherman also said he spent ten to 12 hours researching contracts to prepare for his negotiation.

From article:

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You think 12 hours is doing the research?!

If you’re going to try to negotiate with Paraag Marathe of 49ers with 12 hours of practice, you’re going to get beat. You might not know how, but somewhere important he’s going to win. He’s going to do it to almost anyone.

Marathe and his team told him if he wanted a deal done today and a sure thing, this was what they would offer him. He took it. He made a few calls around, but didn’t take any visits.

They pressured him into it and he took what amounted to a one-year prove-it deal with two years tacked on that are all far under the market value of someone who had already proven to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and could be again if healthy.

If you liked this article and want to learn more about the salary cap and contracts, my book Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions is available for $14.99 on Amazon.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for and, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

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