The Cautionary Tale of Richard Sherman

When the rumblings began to be heard late last season that Richard Sherman was considering representing himself in free agency, everyone was unsure of how the Seattle Seahawks Pro-Bowl cornerback would fair. While it may be cynical to say that NFL teams were literally licking their lips in anticipation, that assumption is not as far from truth as some people may think. The NFL already enjoys a tremendous amount of influence over the player’s union, a union that somehow failed to notice the dictator-like power it gave Roger Goodell during the last CBA. For one of the union’s top players to be negotiating one on one the details of his contract promised to be an interesting case study in player-owner relations.

Not to anyone’s surprise…Richard Sherman got fleeced.

  The San Francisco 49er’s signed Richard Sherman to a reported 3 year, 27.15 million dollar deal last week, with additional incentives allowing the number to raise as high as 39. It’s a deal that to the untrained eye looks quite respectable… until you get in to the year by year breakdown and see what he’s really getting.

   As Profootballtalk’s Mike Florio was quick to point out, only 7 of the 27.15 is guaranteed, and as we know with the NFL, guaranteed money is all that matters. Countless five-year deals are torn up the moment they pass the guaranteed stage, it’s just cheaper for a team to renegotiate a deal than continue paying the previous salary. His base salary for the year is 2 million, jumping to 7 next year, with a 3 million dollar signing bonus the moment he signed. To put it simply…the 49ers can either cut Richard Sherman after the season is done and owe him 2 million to fulfill the guaranteed portion of the contract or keep him and pay him 9 million; 7 as a base salary, and 2 as a roster bonus. A NFL team will be given the choice of paying 2, or 9 million…what do you think they are going to do?

The saddest part of this entire ordeal is that the contract preys upon the most easily manipulated characteristic of an athlete…their confidence. The contract is heavily incentive based, adding huge sums of money if Sherman makes a Pro-Bowl, plays a certain amount of games, and plays 90% of the team’s stats. Anyone who knows Richard Sherman even slightly knows that he thinks he should be involved in every play, like all the stars do! You can easily visualize him nodding as these incentives are read out to him…and the dollar signs glossing over his eyes as he agrees to them. What the athlete never takes into account is all the other intangibles…that it isn’t really up to him if he plays those snaps, and that he is coming off a major injury and is not guaranteed to be the same player. I am not claiming that these incentives would not be offered if an agent was representing Sherman instead, but I can almost guarantee that the breakdown would have been more realistic. You never want to be in a situation where the majority of your deal is incentive based, they’re supposed to be small bonuses that pad your overall salary. The 49er’s coaxed Richard Sherman, one of the most self-confident athletes in the NFL to bet on himself. He did.

Richard Sherman should be a cautionary tale to all the young athletes out there, preparing to make the big step into the professional realm. Sherman did not trust his agent, he felt that his agent did not have his best interests at heart, and he got rid of him. While all that is commendable…his choice to fire his agent and replace him with no one is a problem. Every aspiring athlete needs to find an agent who cares about them, who wants what’s best for them, and they need to trust that person. There are horror stories, sure…but there are hundreds and hundreds of success stories as well. Agents are by no means a corrupt group of people hell bent on screwing over their client. In fact, they are out to make their client as much money as possible because they reap the rewards of their client’s bank account. If you are serious about playing sports professionally you need to find someone you trust who will represent you. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Richard Sherman. Happily starting a 27.15-million-dollar deal…a deal where you will probably make less than a quarter of it. 

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Alex Taylor is a graduate of McMaster University, with degrees in Anthropology and History, and a minor in classics. Alex currently attends Sheridan College, where he is working on a Journalism diploma.

Alex is also a novel writer, having written a manuscript, and he is currently working on another (fiction)

Alex Taylor writes more frequently on his website,

Alex has also written a published paper while attending McMaster University: an academic journal piece on the depictions of aging in the media. 

And avid sports fan, Alex Taylor will be starting a podcast soon (titled thefanlife. It will be on Soundcloud).