Could the Seahawks’ efforts to fill out their cornerback position lead them back to maybe the best cornerback in their history — Richard Sherman?
At least one national NFL pundit, Tom Pelissero, says not to rule it out.
In an appearance on the NFL Network show “Good Morning Football” Wednesday morning, Pelissero said it is his understanding that Sherman “is open to returning to Seattle.’’
Further, he said: “I believe the Seahawks would also be open to having Sherman back.’’
Asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 “how crazy would it be” of Sherman returning to the Seahawks, Pelissero said five.
That may not be too high, but as Pelissero noted, the belief is the relationship between the Seahawks and Sherman was amicable at the end, despite some rocky moments during his last few seasons. Amicable enough not to rule out a reunion.
“This is not like Earl Thomas, where it became acrimonious at the end,’’ Pelissero said.
It’s worth noting that Pelissero said this is not something that would likely happen anytime soon.
Sherman was rated the 19th-best free agent on the market by Pro Football Focus heading into the signing period last week — and he’s the only one of the top 20 who has yet to be signed, tagged or otherwise accounted for.
The reasons why Sherman remains unsigned may be threefold — his age (he’ll be 33 on Tuesday), recent injury history (the Achilles tear that helped end his Seahawks career and a calf injury last year that limited him to five games) and, as always, price.
While he looked like his old self when healthy in 2019, Pro Football Focus gave him a coverage grade of just 67.2 in 2020, the lowest of his career.
And if you don’t put much stock in PFF, Sherman seems to — he recently retweeted four PFF graphics grouped together that rated him highly on various career stats with the header “A Decade of work!’’
That tweet came last week once it may have become apparent to Sherman that he may have to wait to sign. Sherman, who is acting as his own agent, was reported to have interest from the New Orleans Saints, but otherwise there hasn’t been a lot connecting Sherman to NFL teams.
Pelissero said if things were to come together between Sherman and the Seahawks he thinks it would be “a couple of weeks or a month or a couple of months past the draft.’’
By that point, Sherman might be resigned to the kind of inexpensive one-year deal that would likely be all the Seahawks could offer. They were listed as $2.7 million over the salary cap by OvertheCap.com as of Wednesday morning.
Sherman has made $8.8 million or more every season since 2014, which was the first year of his second contract with the Seahawks that at the time made him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.
“The issue is money,’’ Pelissero said. “… He’s not going to play for pennies.’’
But the longer this goes on, Sherman may not have much of a choice.
Would a player who just a few years ago was at the top of the cornerback pay scale want to play for $4-5 million a year? And especially in Seattle, where when he left he was one of the leaders of the so-called “alpha male’’ group who helped run the locker room?
The assumption would be that’s a conversation the team would at least have with Sherman before bringing him back (and, you’d assume, running it by Russell Wilson as well, if need be).
But under coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have not been shy about reunions — whoever would have thought Marshawn Lynch would return?
The other question would be if the Seahawks need Sherman.
They have three players under contract with substantial starting experience as boundary cornerbacks — Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed and recently signed free agent Ahkello Witherspoon, a teammate of Sherman’s with the 49ers the last three years.
They also have two players returning who started at nickel last season — Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi (Reed also some time at nickel).
Also under contact are former UW standout Jordan Miller, a fifth-round pick of the Falcons in 2019 who was signed to the practice squad late last season (and may project more as a nickel corner), and Gavin Heslop, who was on the practice squad all of last season and was active for the Miami game last year but did not play.
The Seahawks typically don’t keep more than five corners on its initial 53-player roster.
The key in whether they might actually take a run at a Sherman reunion may be Quinton Dunbar, who remains a free agent. Dunbar, who dealt with a knee injury all season, started six games at right cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin, who has since signed with Jacksonville.
The Seahawks finally pulled the plug on Dunbar after a tough outing against Buffalo on Nov. 8 that made clear he was nowhere near 100%. That he was never fully healthy means they didn’t really get to see the Dunbar the team dealt a fifth-round pick to Washington to get.
Dunbar, who will be 29 in July, wanted out of Washington, in part because he wanted a big-money contract extension that wasn’t forthcoming.
His injury and the tightened cap all teams face this year means he may not get it now, either, and he could be amenable to coming back to Seattle on a much cheaper one-year deal.
And if your image of Dunbar is based solely on what you saw last year as he limped all over the field, recall he had the second-highest grade of any corner in 2019 behind only Sherman (Carroll also said after the season Dunbar should be ready for the 2021 season after having surgery).
PFF rated Dunbar 61st among all free agents available this year but assessed he might be able to be signed for $6 million a year — and given how the market is going, it may be less than that.
“Any team looking to sign Dunbar is banking on a relatively young player at the position getting back to his excellent 2019 form,’’ PFF wrote.
If the Seahawks can get Dunbar back, they may feel they have all the corners they need, with Reed showing last year he can play on the outside, and Dunbar, Witherspoon and Flowers all having extensive starting experience.
But if not, then the Sherman watch might truly begin in earnest.