RENTON – Richard Sherman’s anticipation as the 2011 NFL draft began quickly turned to anger as he sat through two days of hearing names called that weren’t his.
And then, as Day 3 began, there was a fleeting moment of desperation.
“The fourth round passes and you are like, ‘Damn, I might not get picked,’ ’’ he recalled. “That’s when it starts going downhill. That’s when you start thinking, ‘Is this it for football?’ ’’
Wednesday, the Seahawks signed Sherman to a four-year extension that should keep him in Seattle through the 2018 season. Turns out the draft three years ago was far from it for Sherman and football.
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And during a news conference held on the eve of another NFL draft, the player who went from the 154th overall selection to being hailed by many as the best cornerback in football said, “I’m finally going to get treated like a first-rounder for once.”
Actually, he got treated like much more than that, handed a four-year extension that means he could make $57.4 million the next five seasons, with $40 million guaranteed. Sherman will receive a base salary of $1.4 million for 2014 on the last year of his original rookie contract, and then $56 million in the 2015-18 seasons (including an $11 million signing bonus).
The average of just more than $14 million for the last four years makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, topping the $12 million New England’s Darrelle Revis will make in 2014, not to mention more than any of the 23 cornerbacks taken ahead of him in the 2011 draft, names he says he can still recite.
Sherman has been fueled by the draft snub. He was described by scouts as a player who might someday be a good backup. He emerged as a key player on a defense that led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory.
After signing his deal Wednesday and celebrating it with generous hugs with father Kevin, mother Beverly, brother Branton and other teammates and friends, Sherman said he won’t be changed by the money.
“There are still 23 people picked ahead of me,’’ he said. “That won’t change. Forty million didn’t erase that, and nothing will erase that. Nothing will erase that chip (on his shoulder), that mentality. That is something that I will always keep. Keeps me hungry. Keeps me attacking. Keeps me angry.’’
He was never anxious about his pending contract, though.
Sherman understood the deal, that the Seahawks had a carefully constructed offseason plan to keep as much of the core of their Super Bowl title team together as they could, and that his contract would come in time.
In March, the team re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett to four-year, $28.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Then coach Pete Carroll was signed to a three-year extension rumored to be worth almost $9 million a season. Then last week, Earl Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million extension with $25.7 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid free safety in the NFL.
Re-signing Sherman was the last piece of the puzzle, one that required the team, as general manager John Schneider put it, to “tread lightly’’ during the free-agency period to save money to re-sign its own key players.
“Me personally, I am very pleased with the way the offseason has gone,’’ Schneider said. “We stayed true to our philosophy. We haven’t wavered. We were tempted very much so. There were some … unique players that were interested in coming here. … but you look at (keeping) the best free safety in the league and the best cornerback and we were able to accomplish those goals.’’
Seattle’s quest to keep its core players began last year when strong safety Kam Chancellor signed a five-year, $35 million deal, meaning three-fourths of the original Legion of Boom secondary is secured through 2017.
Next year at this time, the Seahawks could be holding a similar news conference to announce an extension for quarterback Russell Wilson. The deals of Sherman and Thomas have been structured in a way that the Seahawks should be able to pay what it will take to get that done — likely more than $20 million a year.
Sherman repeated what he has said before, that the amount of his contract mattered most in illustrating the respect with which he is now held by the team, and the NFL.
Negotiations that had heated up the past few weeks came to a head Tuesday night when Sherman got a text telling him the deal was close.
“It’s a surreal moment when you realize that it’s really going to happen.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.