The founding member of the Legion of Boom signed with the 49ers over the weekend. What will the Seahawks do to replace him?
Richard Sherman officially signed his new contract with the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon.
While the NFL free-agent period begins this week (teams can officially start negotiating with players Monday with signings allowed Wednesday), there may be nothing more emotion inducing that can happen this offseason than the sight of one of Seattle’s most beloved players becoming a member of one of the Seahawks’ bitterest of rivals.
So here are four day-after questions and an attempt at some answers on Sherman’s departure and what it means for the Seahawks.
1. Can we still call the Seahawks’ secondary the Legion of Boom?
The first mention in any media of the nickname that came to be synonymous with the Seahawks’ secondary came in a ESPN 710 radio interview with Kam Chancellor in August 2012.
While the legacy of the LOB will live forever, it seems fair to ask if it’s really the LOB if only one founding member of the four who first brought it to life — free safety Earl Thomas — is still with the team next season (Brandon Browner is out of football, Sherman with the 49ers and Chancellor’s future is uncertain).
Chancellor and Thomas are the only two members of the secondary from the 2013 Super Bowl season who remain on the roster. Seattle could re-sign Byron Maxwell and DeShawn Shead, players the team appears to want to keep.
Shaquill Griffin said in an interview last month with Pro Football Talk that “the Legion of Boom is never going to be over.’’
Maybe that’s the best way to go, to keep it and give those who follow something to live up to.
2. Did Sherman sign with the 49ers to throw a thorn in the side of the Seahawks?
That Sherman, who is serving as his own agent, signed quickly with the first team he visited struck some as curious, especially since he also agreed to a contract that includes some heavy incentives (specifically, $2 million for 2018 in bonuses based on whether he is active on gameday, considered an exceedingly high number). Sherman could make $13 million in 2018 but also could make as little as $3 million, which is all that was guaranteed at signing. His base salary in Seattle for 2018 was $11 million.
Sherman, expected to talk to 49ers reporters on Monday, had lots of other reasons to sign with the 49ers, of course. He played for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in Seattle from 2011-13 and as such is familiar with the scheme. He played at Stanford, so he’s familiar with the area. And it allows him to stay on the West Coast, close to his home in Los Angeles and to Seattle, where his fiancée, Ashley Moss, is from.
But Sherman is also exceedingly proud. No matter what he may say going forward, it’s hard to imagine the chance to play the Seahawks twice a year, and be with a team that could overtake them in the NFC West, wasn’t somewhere in his mind.
3. So what does Seattle do at cornerback now?
Griffin returns at right cornerback, and Seattle is expected to tender restricted free agent Justin Coleman to return as the slot corner. If Seattle re-signs Maxwell, it could bring back what was its starting trio for the final six games of 2017. Shead, a starter at right corner in 2016, could also be re-signed. And Seattle was high on DeAndre Elliott before he suffered a season-ending injury in the final exhibition game last year.
4. Will there be a big drop in play without Sherman?
The numbers indicate maybe not, and also reveal why Seattle may have been willing to part with Sherman.
Recall that both Sherman and Chancellor were lost for the season during a 22-16 win at Arizona on Nov. 9.
Seattle went just 3-4 in the seven games they missed, and that record was often cited as evidence of just how much worse the Seahawks were without those two.
Numbers, of course, can be parsed a lot of different ways, especially in a sport with as few games as the NFL.
But the most basic number used to judge passing in the NFL — passer rating — shows not a lot of difference in the games with Sherman and Chancellor and the games without them.
The Seahawks had a 76.9 defensive passer rating following the Arizona game and ended the season at 79.1. They allowed passer ratings of 100 or higher twice with their full secondary (Tennessee, Houston) and twice after (Atlanta, Jacksonville).
Maxwell returned after failed stints with the Eagles and Dolphins and looked like the player he had been before leaving in 2014 (at least in the eyes of the coaches), something that might have further reinforced to the Seahawks that their system also goes a long way toward creating success.