Richard Sherman's impact on 49ers evident to Chiefs' Tyrann Mathieu

Richard Sherman's impact on 49ers evident to Chiefs' Tyrann Mathieu

MIAMI, Fla. -- When it comes to Richard Sherman and Tyrann Mathieu, the defensive leaders of the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, there's a whole lot of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 

As the 49ers and Chiefs prepare for their championship bout in Super Bowl LIV, Mathieu has been the key to the Chiefs' defensive turnaround along with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Mathieu came over from the Houston Texans in the offseason and has set the tone for a Chiefs defense that badly needed an adjustment after last season when a porous secondary kept them from winning the AFC championship against the New England Patriots. 

Sherman, likewise, has brought a leadership and toughness to Robert Saleh's defense with the 49ers following "Uncle Sherm's" lead through a 13-3 regular season all the way to a Super Bowl berth. 

Mathieu began his career as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, spending five years in the NFC West while Sherman was with the Seahawks and the Honey Badger has been watching in awe of the 49ers cornerback's mental and physical abilities for years, while trying to emulate some of his game. 

"I think, I was so fortunate to play in the same division with Sherman and really Kam Chancellor, all those guys," Mathieu said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night in Miami. "I used to marvel at some of the things that they do right? And it wasn't really athletic things, right? It was more so the communication things and the mental part of the game, that I think he's doing the same thing for San Francisco, right? He's setting the tempo. He's giving them the energy that they need, putting those guys in a certain mindset. You can tell he's a clear-cut leader over there and he's a guy I've always admired from a far.

"I've always tried to emulate, you know, his leadership, his thinking ability when he's on the football field. He's probably one of the most aware cornerbacks that I've ever seen play the game and I think San Francisco got lucky when they got Sherman."

Sherman was hampered athletically during his first year with the 49ers, as he played with sutures still in his Achilles from when he ruptured the tendon in 2017. But now fully healthy, Sherman put together a dominant second season with San Francisco, earning second-team All-Pro honors and a Pro-Bowl selection. 

To Mathieu, it's clear the same Sherman that dominated for the Seahawks' "Legion fo Boom" defense, has brought that edge, mindset and talent to the Bay Area. 

"Like I said, playing in the same division for almost five years, I watched him a lot, studied them a lot," Mathieu said of the "Legion of Boom." "That Seattle secondary, I remember playing against them and watching them work, watch them communicate. They were always on a different level than everyone else.

"I think Sherman has really brought that to the 49ers. He's brought that confidence. That belief that if you put in enough work you can be whoever you want and I think that's who they are." 

After Opening Night, the two defensive stars exchanged admiration for each other on Twitter. 

Mathieu's evolution through the years is a story to be admired. He's battled through a lot of adversity, some self-inflicted, but he has come out the other side and now is one win away from a Super Bowl championship. 

[RELATED: How 49ers pioneer Sowers views her historic Super Bowl debut]

Standing in Mathieu and the Chiefs' way is Sherman and the NFL's best defense. While the world mainly is focused on the battle between the 49ers' defense and Patrick Mahomes, the game may very well be decided by whether or not Mathieu and the Chiefs' defense can stop the 49ers' vaunted rushing attack. 

After years of studying Sherman's mindset, Mathieu is ready for the biggest stage in sports. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Why Marquise Goodwin, 49ers parting ways this offseason makes sense

Why Marquise Goodwin, 49ers parting ways this offseason makes sense

Marquise Goodwin led the 49ers with a career-high 962 receiving yards in 2017. Since then, he has just 581 yards combined in two seasons.

The 29-year-old wide receiver is under contract for the next two seasons, but a change of scenery this offseason could benefit both him and the 49ers.

Through injuries and off-field adversity, Goodwin has played in just 20 regular-season games the last two years. He clearly has fallen down coach Kyle Shanahan's depth chart, and the 49ers parting ways with the seven-year NFL veteran this offseason would give him more time to chase a dream away from the gridiron.

"The Niners would save a little less than $4 million on the salary cap by parting ways with Goodwin, and it would also allow Goodwin, a world-class long jumper, to follow through on his intention to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo," ESPN's Nick Wagoner recently wrote.

Goodwin was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 10 after dealing with multiple knee and foot issues. Though his time with the 49ers might come to an end, Goodwin clearly still believes in himself.

The 49ers' receiving corps likely will be led by Deebo Samuel next season after he opened eyes as a rookie. Kendrick Bourne is expected back as a restricted free agent, and Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor are returning from injuries.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The 49ers likely will target a receiver in the draft, as this year's class is loaded. They also could look at adding a veteran in free agency or bringing back Emmanuel Sanders, whom they acquired in a mid-season trade.

Goodwin is on the outside looking in after hauling in just 12 catches for 186 yards and one touchdown over nine games last season. Sometimes, change is best for both parties.

How 49ers can add more picks in 2020 NFL Draft, according to Peter King

How 49ers can add more picks in 2020 NFL Draft, according to Peter King

The 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they are extremely short on selections this year after that. 

San Francisco has just one pick in the top 150. After the first round, the 49ers won't be on the clock again until the fifth round. They own two fifth-round picks, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. 

Between the second and fifth rounds, it's completely barren for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. But NBC Sports' Peter King looked at how San Francisco could accrue more selections this April

Here's what King wrote in his latest Football Morning in America column. 

To project the Niners’ path, I looked north for a clue. The arch-rival Seahawks, with ever-restless GM John Schneider, provided an excellent example in 2019 of how to turn one first-round pick into a bevy of picks, replenishing what would have been a thin crop.

The trades:

Seattle traded its first-round pick, 21st overall, to Green Bay for the 30th, 114th and 118th picks.
Seattle traded the 30th pick to the Giants for the 37th, 132nd and 142nd picks.
Seattle traded the 37th pick to Carolina for the 47th and 77th picks. At 47, Seattle picked S Marquise Blair.
Seattle traded the 77th and 118th picks to New England for the 64th pick. At 64, Seattle selected WR DK Metcalf.
Seattle traded the 114th pick to Minnesota for the 120th and 204th picks.
Seattle picked WR Gary Jennings Jr. at 120, S Ugo Amadi at 132, LB Ben Burr-Kiven at 142, and RB Travis Homer at 204.

So Seattle turned pick 21 into picks 47, 64, 120, 132, 142 and 204 ... two second-round picks, two fourth-round picks, one fifth-round pick and one sixth-round pick.

The 49ers lost their second-round pick when they acquired defensive end Dee Ford in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. They then lost their third- and fourth-round picks when they acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos.

But they added a fifth-round pick in the Sanders trade and a seventh-round pick from the Detroit Lions in a 2018 trade where they shipped away linebacker Eli Harold.

[RELATED: 49ers in good shape at QB entering the 2020 offseason]

The 49ers don't have too many holes on their roster after losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. However, depth is always a must, as they learned this season. With Jimmie Ward being an unrestricted free agent, the 49ers could target a safety early in the draft. They also likely will have their eyes on a loaded receiver class and depth on the interior offensive line. 

To add picks, though, they might have to take a lesson from their biggest rivals.