Sports Out West

Richard Sherman contract extension: How much should the Seahawks pay?

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With news of an Earl Thomas contract extension surfacing Monday afternoon, the Seahawks’ next target for a long-term deal will likely be star cornerback Richard Sherman, who is set to enter free agency next offseason.

According to a report by Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, the Seahawks have been working on an extension for the 26-year-old Sherman and are “zeroing in” on a deal. The report also states that Sherman’s next contract will make him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sherman will have the richest contract for a cornerback whenever he does end up signing his next deal. Sherman has emerged as the best corner in the league and is one of the young cornerstones of the Seahawks’ franchise.

Sherman led the league in interceptions last year with eight despite the fact that teams are hesitant to throw his way, and has consistently eliminated other teams’ top receiver during his three years in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman and teammate Byron Maxwell were the only two cornerbacks in the league to allow a quarterback rating of less than 50 when thrown at.

While he is an incredibly valuable player, the Seahawks are going to eventually have to decide how much is too much for Sherman. If the report is corrects and Sherman indeed becomes the highest paid corner in the league, he will be looking for an annual salary greater than Darrelle Revis’ current rate of $12 million per year.

Thomas’ extension is reportedly worth four years and $40 million of new money in addition to his rookie deal, placing him just ahead of Jairus Byrd as the highest-paid safety in the league. It was an expensive move to be sure, but one that had to be made given how important Thomas is to the defensive scheme the Seahawks run.

If the Seahawks can get something similar with Sherman–a contract that makes him the highest paid at his position in the NFL but doesn’t go far overboard–they will be in great shape. A deal for around $13 million per year is one Seattle should absolutely accept.

However, if Sherman is looking to become the highest-paid cornerback ever and eclipse Revis’ 6-year, $96 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago, that’s a different story. That contract didn’t include any guaranteed money (eventually leading Revis to be cut this offseason) whereas Sherman’s almost certainly will, and Seattle simply can’t afford to pay Sherman $16 million per season.

There are a number of young players the Seahawks must be mindful of, but none are more important than Russell Wilson, who will be a free agent in 2016. If it comes down to retaining Sherman and retaining Wilson, Seattle must choose the latter.

Sherman and Thomas are the best at their positions in the NFL, and nobody is going to argue that Wilson is the best quarterback in the league. But finding a franchise quarterback that can lead a team to the Super Bowl is such a difficult task. The Seahawks have to prioritize the quarterback position for the long term.

Can the Seahawks afford a $13 million contract for Sherman and a potential $20 million contract for Wilson? It looks difficult from the outside, but the Seahawks have an outstanding front office that did well with the Thomas and Michael Bennett deals this offseason.

It would be difficult to see Sherman, the leader of Seattle’s iconic “Legion of Boom,” leave in free agency. But if keeping Sherman comes at the cost of losing Wilson, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright or others, it’s an option the Seahawks have to consider.  

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.