"You mad, bro?" Forget that Richard Sherman personified the archetype villain to 49er fans the moment he tipped a last-ditch effort pass to Michael Crabtree in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, then made a "choke" gesture to Colin Kaepernick, the dejected 49ers bench, and the rest of the entire football-watching world. How about the fact that the 49ers brass just spent a reported $39 million over three years on a cornerback that is turning 30 later this month and is coming off of one Achilles tendon tear in one leg and a bone spur "clean up" in the other?

Didn't the 49ers just release NaVorro Bowman (you know, the iconic former face of the franchise in part due to his heroics in that same game) after roughly the same injury and at roughly the same age? So what's the difference? Maybe Sherman passed the physical with flying colors and Bowman had question marks. We may never know that side of it. Is it worth the risk to find out?

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No doubt, it's a gamble...but not financially. The 49ers have more than enough cap space to accommodate such a move and, more than likely, a large chunk of that $39 million will be tied to hard-to-reach incentives anyway. It may not be as big of a financial risk as it initially seemed, if the contract is in any way similar to what we've seen in the past from Chief Contract Negotiator, Paraag Marathe. We'll know more once the complete details of the contract are made public.

No, the risk is in how this will affect the dynamics of the locker room. Teammates revered Bowman for his work ethic and resiliency following career-threatening injuries. And yet he was still expendable. He wasn't exactly quiet...he let his hard-hitting play speak for him; but he also definitely wasn't a brash, outspoken instigator that you could imagine boastfully prancing and gesticulating toward an opponent's sideline after they just endured a heart-wrenching loss.

That sort of swagger was reserved solely for 49ers Public Enemy No. 1, Richard Sherman. And like it or not, he consistently delivered on his trash talk. Since being drafted out of Stanford in 2011, NFL research shows that Sherman leads the league in interceptions (32), passes defensed (99), lowest completion percentage allowed (47.4%) and lowest passer rating allowed (50.9). The four-time consecutive Pro Bowler has (had?) game. But so did Darrelle Revis.

The real question to me is, how will an aging veteran coming off a major injury and two surgeries deal with it when he might not be able to back up all that infamous trash talk anymore? Will he divide a young and impressionable locker room? Will he start blaming other players, coaches, zodiac alignments...anyone but himself if he doesn't bounce back the way he (and the 49ers front office) expects? Will he implode?

As the guy who saw this as a possible dark horse signing, my guess is no. Yes, Sherman may seem mercurial but I believe his schtick has been much more calculated than most think. He's an intelligent, savvy, playmaker that has been praised for his ability to take young players under his arm in Seattle and help develop them.

At worse, he's leaps and bounds better than the liability that was Dontae Johnson last year. At best, he plays at the same level he was pre-injury and helps the 49ers forge the identity they are looking to make under Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. No one knows this 3 Deep Zone defense better than Sherman; he helped create it when Saleh was still an assistant in Seattle. And, in this writer's opinion, he's a much better (and cheaper) signing than Trumaine Johnson would have been.

That doesn't mean the 49ers are done yet. The smart move is to still draft another corner to develop...they just won't have to do it in the early rounds now if they don't see an ideal fit. And for my next prediction, I also see the 49ers going after one of Saleh's former players in Jacksonville in free agency, Aaron Colvin. He's young, plays the same defense, and won't come at a huge price. Book it.

Poll

  • Will signing Richard Sherman help or hurt the 49ers?
  • Help
    81%
  • Undecided
    13%
  • Hurt
    5%
  • 755 votes