Richard Sherman and the San Francisco 49ers make sense on a number of intriguing levels, which would seem to undercut the common wisdom that Sherman actually chose to be a serious irritant to the 49ers during his time in Seattle.
That is wrong. The former Seattle cornerback extraordinaire was a serious irritant to everyone during his time in Seattle – including, at times, the Seahawks themselves. He was not shy about how he played, or how he talked, because he could walk what he talked, no matter how loudly it seemed to be.
But he is a 49er today for two compelling reasons – the first being that they needed a shutdown corner, which he still may be, and second being that they were willing to offer him a contract that could last three years and pay him as much as $39.15 million.
And maybe there is a third as well. Sherman had no particular animus toward the 49ers per se. He had an animus toward Jim Harbaugh from their occasionally fractious times at Stanford. That is not likely to be an issue again unless Harbaugh returns to the NFL, though Sherman is almost sure never to let it be a bygone bygone.
While there is no guarantee that he will regain his dominant place among the league’s defenders (like most players of his age and experience level, his body is barking back at him), he is in a place where his coach wants production before any perceived deportment issues, and he is in a place that in the last two years has shown an unusual willingness to allow player speech to be free.
Or at the very least freer than most other places. And Sherman has a great and much-noticed reverence for the First Amendment.
This may have played some role in Sherman’s decision, although like most players at age 30, the highest bidder has an enormous advantage. The 49ers in the post-Baalke era have been among the most tolerant in the NFL in terms of player speech, starting with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, and Sherman might well have factored that into his choice.
But the 49ers’ choice was more elemental. They need players with Sherman’s pedigree, and though there might have been a case made for them spending their money in pursuit of, say, free agent cornerback stars like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler, just to name two healthier and slightly younger performers, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have shown a predilection for aggressive shopping in their brief time running triage for the 49ers. Whatever the value of their decisions, they have been fueled by what can best be described as decisive impatience.
In other words, they wanted what Richard Sherman could do, they had the money to get it, and they got it only one day after he’d been officially released by the Seahawks. The market opened itself to them, and they jumped.
Whether it works to their advantage or not remains to be seen, because football is a vicious master when it comes to its players, especially those coming off a significant injury. But the 49ers didn’t let side issues distract them, and Sherman didn’t let any notions of past issues with the 49ers distract him. Mutual needs were met, and now we will see if they will be fulfilled.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for NBCSportsBayArea.com