One of the most celebrated careers in Seattle sports history comes to an end, as the Seahawks released their star cornerback as expected on Friday.

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Continuing an offseason of increasing and monumental change, the Seahawks officially released cornerback Richard Sherman Friday morning, a move that had been rumored for two days and likely brings an end to the Seattle career of one of the team’s most iconic players.

Sherman becomes a free agent, and the team has let him know it would be interested in re-signing him at a salary lower than the $11 million he had been scheduled to make in 2018, the final year of his contract.

But Sherman is also expected to explore the free-agent market and a player whose arrival in 2011 helped form a defense that will go down as one of the best in NFL history may well have played his last game with the Seahawks.

Sherman released a statement via Twitter Friday afternoon that read like a goodbye to Seattle.

“As this chapter comes to a close, I am looking forward to what the future holds,” he wrote, after having earlier written that his time with the Seahawks “has been an amazing ride from beginning to end, with memories to last a lifetime.”

The Seahawks officially announced the move Friday and thanked Sherman in a statement that also sounded like a farewell, stating: “Thank you for helping win championships, shape our culture and define success in Seattle. We love you and your unwavering competitiveness, confidence and fierce passion for football and life. For that, you will always be a Hawk!”

In a comment to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Sherman kept the option open that he could return.
“They wanted the financial flexibility going into free agency but expressed that they wanted me to return and will be in contact,” Sherman said.

But the odds are that Sherman’s Seahawks’ tenure is over. Sherman is hoping to play for a contender and still make what he was scheduled to with the Seahawks, and if he can’t find the same salary, it may be easier for him to accept a pay cut with another team. It’s not known what Seattle offered.

The Seahawks also released cornerback Jeremy Lane, another move that had been long rumored. The release of Lane saves Seattle $4.75 million against the cap in 2018 and $6 million in 2019.

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Sherman was released with a failed physical designation, which allows him to be eligible for a $1.15 million injury guarantee if he never plays again.

The Seahawks had wanted Sherman to stay in 2018, but due to concerns of his age (he turns 30 later this month) and his Achilles injury had recently approached him about restructuring his contract and taking a pay cut.

Sherman balked at that so the Seahawks instead explored trade options. But nothing materialized so the Seahawks instead decided to release Sherman with the hope that he may come back.

The release by the team announcing the move had “parted ways” with Sherman and referred to him as “no longer on the team” and didn’t mention whether he could return.

Sherman hasn’t attracted much of a trade market because teams knew he was likely to be released, his salary and that he is recovering from a season-ending Achilles tendon injury suffered in November.

Making the move now allows Sherman — who is acting as his own agent — a head start on finding a new team ahead of the beginning of the new league year Wednesday, when players whose contracts run out will officially become free agents.

(Rich Boudet / The Seattle Times)
(Rich Boudet / The Seattle Times)

Sherman, taken in the fifth round out of Stanford in 2011, became a starter six games into his rookie season and was rarely off the field for the Seahawks until suffering a torn Achilles tendon against Arizona on Nov. 9, teaming with free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor to form the core of a secondary that would soon become known as the Legion of Boom and within two years helped lead the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl win.

He ranks fourth in team history in interceptions with 32 behind only Dave Brown (50), Eugene Robinson (42) and John Harris (41), a total that also is the most of any NFL players since he entered the league.

Sherman said last month at the Seattle Sports Star awards that he hoped to negotiate a new deal with the Seahawks, but said he was fine with the idea that he might have to move on.

“I plan on playing five or six more years whether it’s here or elsewhere,” Sherman said.

Sherman had surgery to repair his right Achilles in November. He had a surgery to clean bone spurs out of his left Achilles last month.

But Sherman said at the Sports Star awards he thought he would be ready for the beginning of minicamp.

“I guess I’m more ahead of schedule than they thought I was,’’ Sherman said.

The releases of Sherman and Lane leave Seattle’s cornerback spot in some flux heading into free agency.
Shaquill Griffin will return as the starter at right cornerback and the team is expected to tender restricted free agent Justin Coleman to return as the nickel corner. Coleman replaced Lane as the nickel corner spot early in the 2017. Seattle initially included Lane in a trade to Houston for left tackle Duane Brown, but Lane failed a physical and returned to the Seahawks.

Seattle could re-sign Byron Maxwell, who returned to the Seahawks in November following Sherman’s season-ending injury and started the rest of the way at left cornerback.

The Seahawks could also re-sign DeShawn Shead, who is an unrestricted free agent. Neiko Thorpe is also under contract for the 2018 season (though there has been some speculation he could also be a salary cap casualty).

Also on the roster are DeAndre Elliott, who saw some action as a rookie in 2016 before spending all of last year on injured reserve, and Mike Tyson, a sixth-round pick in 2017 who spent most of last year on the practice squad.

The Seahawks traded Michael Bennett to the Eagles Wednesday and are expected to release defensive end Cliff Avril, who may not be able to play football again after suffering a neck/nerve injury in October that required surgery.

The cost-cutting moves (if you assume Avril will be released) will give the Seahawks an estimated $38 million in available salary-cap space. They had $13 million at the beginning of the week.

While that money means the Seahawks can be more active in free agency, they also will need to use a significant portion of that money to re-sign some of their own players. They might be plotting to re-sign defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, for instance.

The shedding of Sherman, Bennett and Lane means the Seahawks have just eight players left on their roster from the 2013 team that won the Super Bowl under contract for the 2018 season — quarterback Russell Wilson, receiver
Doug Baldwin, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, Chancellor, Thomas, Avril, and punter Jon Ryan.

Shead, Maxwell and tight end Luke Willson — who also were all part of the 2013 team — will become free agents Wednesday.