The vote is in from the guy who feels the Richard Sherman departure more than anyone in Seattle. Tweeted Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin Sunday morning:
“Well, this sucks.”
Not only had a good friend and teammate blown town, Baldwin has to go up against Sherman, presuming a return to good health, twice next season as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Not that Baldwin isn’t used to trash talk after seven years of practice against Sherman. But now it’s real between a team on the way up, and Baldwin’s team, which at the moment seems to have put on its downhill skis.
Then again, it’s possible to say this early in the NFL year that the Seahawks already have hit the snow fence and slid down broken to the lodge. Or have you forgotten the 42-7 loss to the Rams at the Clink Dec. 17?
That was the bottom — as bad as a Seattle team coached by Pete Carroll has looked.
It’s true the defense that day because of injuries was missing Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril. LB Bobby Wagner played but was hurt and ineffective, which led to a dispute between him and Earl Thomas as to whether he should have even tried to play.
At some point this off-season, it figures that Carroll and GM John Schneider would have said to each other: If everyone were healthy, would we have won that game? After all, a week earlier ,they beat 24-10 an Eagles team with QB Carson Wentz that subsequently won the Super Bowl.
I would submit that the Seahawks would have lost to the Rams that day no matter what, because the Seahawks physically and psychologically were no longer able to sustain premier play. The Rams could do that, maturing quickly into a serious contender by getting quality play from younger, healthier players.
Like the Seahawks did in 2013.
In 2017, the NFC West already had flipped. The Seahawks were past tense. Rams coach Sean McVay knew it.
“I could feel it before the game — these guys were so ready for this moment,” he told NFL.com’s Mike Silver after the game. “It was the same feeling I got before we played the Cardinals in London (33-0 win), and I loved what I saw: They were locked in, focused, determined and pumped.
“And that’s when I knew I didn’t really have to say anything at all.”
This was his pre-game talk: “Nothing needs to be said. We’re ready. Let’s (expletive) go!”
Lost in the postseason belief by many Seahawks fans that a few more field goals would have made the Seahawks 11-5 or 12-4 was the fact that Carroll/Schneider recognized this iteration of the Seahawks passed its expiration date with the Rams outcome. They knew it because the defensive core, if retained, could only get older and slower, not better, not even as good.
They had drafted so poorly over the past four years that a smooth transition wasn’t possible. The team were on reserve parachutes, and the ground was coming up way too fast.
The tell on that epiphany came Monday in Peter King’s intriguing Sports Illustrated story about how the Sherman-to-49ers deal transpired. From a Seattle perspective, the most revealing disclosure was that Sherman Saturday agreed to take the 49ers offer and allow the Seahawks to match it.
Schneider said no.
Sherman reported Schneider told him the incentives in the deal “were too rich for me.” Which is remarkable, given that further reporting on Sherman’s deal disclosed it was team-friendly and amounted to a one-year deal the 49ers could escape if Sherman’s injury recovery didn’t go well.
Reporting by Pro Football Talk and NFL.com said the deal includes only $3 million guaranteed. Then Sherman gets $2 million roster bonus on the first day of camp if he passes a physical. His base salary in 2018 is $2 million.
Additionally, there’s a per-game 46-man roster bonus of $2 million ($125,000 per game); a workout bonus of $50,000, a playing time incentive (90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps) of $1 million; a Pro Bowl incentive of $1 million and first- or second-team All-Pro, $2 million.
There are escalators in the deal for 2019 and 2020 that favor Sherman, but they are triggered by his achievements in 2018 after a surgery that typically takes 10 to 12 months for a return to full health. His Achilles tendon was repaired in mid-November, and his left ankle had surgery last month to remove bone spurs.
To get the full amount of the contract’s $39.15 million, the incentives mandate that Sherman, who turns 30 March 30, would have to be voted All-Pro (not the Pro Bowl) for all three years.
The upshot is that the Seahawks said no to matching a cheaper deal than the $11 million they would have paid him to play in 2018. If Sherman played in all 16 games, but won no awards, he could make up to $10 million. That means that, diplomatic rhetoric aside, the Seahawks weren’t open to having him back, especially if they presumed he wouldn’t be full strength by the season opener.
Then there’s the potential headache of managing Sherman’s recovery if the club wants to hold him out to prevent recurrence, and the stubborn Sherman knows the decision would cost him money.
Even if Sherman goes on to have a successful season, the Seahawks had to have believed they couldn’t get tied up in more multi-year extensions in the same positional unit after the injury to Chancellor in the first of his three seasons made it a bad decision.
Naturally, Sherman will turn the Seahawks’ predicament into a snub suitable for re-launching the Seahawks-49ers rivalry. In King’s story, he admitted that going to a team that plays Seattle twice was a large incentive.
Apparently he was also inspired when one knucklehead fan trolled the Seattle base by burning Sherman’s jersey in a Twitter post.
“I’m vengeful in that way,” Sherman said. “I love the (Seahawks) fan base to death, and I loved playing there. It was such a great opportunity. I helped the organization get to a great place and stay there.
“But now it’s like I abandoned them. People are out there burning my jersey. Come on. I’m not the one who let me go. They let me go. I didn’t abandon anybody.”
As he put it Monday morning at his first media conference call from Niners’ team headquarters in Santa Clara, “It re-ignited that gasoline fire I’ve always had burning . . . I’ve got a lot of people to put on a show for.
“I’m thankful. It’s motivation for me.”
Think of it this way, Seattle fans: It’s time again to get out the Sharpie and circle the dates for 49ers games. The only thing better would be if 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan fires his offensive coordinator and brings back Jim Harbaugh.