The Seattle Seahawks cut ties on Friday with star cornerback Richard Sherman, who became one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks during his seven seasons with the team.
The team informed Sherman early in the day he would be released, and he confirmed the decision in a text message to The Associated Press. The move appeared to be building after he met with the team Wednesday to discuss his future. Sherman declined to comment after the meeting.
“Thank you for helping win championships, shape our culture and define success in Seattle,” the team said in a statement announcing the decision.
“We love you and your unwavering competitiveness, confidence and fierce passion for football and life. For that, you will always be a Hawk!”
Sherman was an overlooked fifth-round draft pick who went on to become a two-time All-Pro who helped anchor a defense that was the league’s best for several years.
He will be 30 years old going into next season and coming off an Achilles tendon injury that cost him half of the 2017 season.
But the biggest reason for his release was financial. Sherman was due $13 million for the 2018 season and his release gives Seattle a salary cap savings of about $11 million.
Sherman became a star in Seattle, bringing a brash attitude and willingness to speak out on any topic to go along with his stellar play. His best seasons came in 2013 and 2014 when Seattle made two Super Bowl appearances and he has 32 interceptions.
This may not be an end for Sherman and the Seahawks, depending on what he finds in free agency. Seattle could be open to bringing Sherman back at a reduced salary.
Sherman was open to the idea of a new place to call home last offseason when Seattle engaged in trade discussions surrounding Sherman, but said his preference was to remain with the Seahawks.
What’s still to be answered is how much of an impact the Achilles injury will have. Sherman has never been the fastest cornerback, often using his exquisite technique and smarts to make up for less than elite speed. But recovery from Achilles injuries can often be troublesome and Sherman also had a cleanup surgery on his opposite ankle during the offseason.
The questions about Sherman’s health account for Seattle’s position. The Seahawks don’t want to be paying a premium price for a cornerback entering the final year of his contract with an injury concern. Seattle could be sacrificing something greater, though. Sherman has been a locker-room leader and mentor to younger players. Shaquill Griffin spoke regularly about Sherman’s influence last year.
But it’s clear the Seahawks are a team in transition, although it also remains to be seen how significant this makeover will be. Seattle already traded Michael Bennett to Philadelphia for two late-round draft picks and a little-used wide receiver. Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril both have neck injuries, and it’s uncertain if they’ll play again. Earl Thomas said at the Pro Bowl he wants a new contract and may hold out.
About the only sure thing for the defense is the return of All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. General manager John Schneider, speaking at the NFL combine, called it a “constant puzzle.”
“You’re trying to put stuff together all the time,” he said. “It’s a big challenge.”