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Could the 49ers Move Richard Sherman From Cornerback to Safety?

Gilbert Brink
Jun 22, 2020 at 8:15 AM


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Richard Sherman was one of the most hated opponents in 49ers history. Currently, Richard Sherman is one of the most beloved members of the 49ers roster. So much has changed since the loudmouth, superstar cornerback took a dinner meeting with Kyle Shanahan a little over two years ago. Back then, the 49ers were coming off of a 6-10 season, ending the year with a 5-game winning streak led by newly acquired QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Expectations were high, the 49ers were a media darling and Jimmy Garoppolo was heralded as the next great QB. The addition of Richard Sherman shocked the football world and set the bar even higher for the once great franchise.

Two years later, the 49ers are coming off of a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss. Although he faltered in the final moments of Super Bowl 54, Richard Sherman played at a dominant level for the majority of 2019. On 51 passes his way, Sherman only allowed 27 receptions and recorded 3 interceptions. Although Sherman's individual statistics were impressive, even more impressive was his contribution to fielding the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. As the cerebral leader of the defense, his efforts towards grooming a young defense paid dividends in 2019.

So, here we are, two years later. What does the future hold for the 49ers and Richard Sherman? When he signed with the team in 2018, Sherman signed a 3-year, incentive-heavy deal. Sherman notoriously "bet on himself," and by achieving the milestones he designed into his contract while negotiating his own deal, Sherman has set himself up to be paid roughly $13 million in 2020. That being said, 2020 is the final year of his contract with the 49ers.

In a 2018 interview with Bleacher Report Sherman said, "I think 35 is probably my cutoff...they'd have a hard time getting me out of the bed at 35 to go play." Three months ago Sherman turned 32, and with the specter of retirement looming it's safe to say Sherman probably has one more contract left in him. The 49ers need to be the team to give him that contract, but not as a cornerback. Sherman has expressed the desire to change real estate in the secondary for some time now: "At some point, everybody makes the transition to safety and if you're smart enough to play that game and I'll probably do that in a couple of years" said Sherman.

Coincidentally, the 49ers may have the perfect opening for Sherman a year from now. With his corner skills diminishing, and SS Jacquiski Tartt's contract expiring this off-season, the 49ers would be wise to transition Sherman to strong safety and pair him with Jimmie Ward to create a dominating duo in the back-end of the secondary. For starters, the transition from cornerback to safety is one that many great corners have undergone. Hall of Famers like Charles Woodson, Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson all made the switch from cornerback to safety during their legendary careers. So not only does Sherman desire the move, it is one that has a track record of success.

Some may peg Sherman as a free safety, but this move wouldn't make sense for Sherman or the 49ers. First, the 49ers have a very good free safety in Jimmie Ward, and second, Sherman's skill set is much more compatible with the strong safety position. While many corners shy away from contact, Sherman has always been one of the best, if not the best ever, at tackling as a cornerback in the game. You may be able to catch a ball in front of 25, but there is almost no chance that you will actually get by him. He brings a tenacity to tackling that you cannot find in most linebackers. When Sherman isn't dropping down into the box for run support, he'd be clamping down on a team's opposing tight end simply neutralizing that player completely as Sherman has the skill and intellectual advantage over almost any TE in the league. Moving Sherman to safety would take him off of covering top flight wide receivers who, at this point of his career, simply have a step or two on him. The 49ers safeties have struggled to create turnovers and Sherman could help out tremendously in this area. Over his 5-year career, Jacquiski Tartt has recorded 3 interceptions. Sherman had 4 interceptions in the regular season and playoffs this past year. Pair these factors with Sherman's extensive knowledge of Robert Salah's defense and you have what is equal to a coach on the field.

Take away his on-field contributions and Richard Sherman is still essential to the success of this 49ers team. The chemistry that has been built in this locker room has been built on the backs of players like Richard Sherman. Never once did Richard Sherman turn his back on this team. When the 49ers went 4-12 and found themselves back in the basement of the NFL, Sherman provided the bravado for a young team trying to find its way. "We're going to take this journey. It's going to be a beautiful journey, but we're going to slap people on the butt, and we're going to stay humble. We're going to get these dubs," said Sherman before the 2019 season.

The 49ers can't afford to part ways with Sherman on this journey and their journey isn't over yet. The journey Sherman embarked on two years ago has a specific desired ending. One where the once loathed, now loved, Sherman carries a Lombardi Trophy through the streets of San Francisco as one of the best safeties in the NFL.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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