Seattle Seahawks: Richard Sherman
Defensive end Michael Bennett has a new deal worth five times what his old contract was worth, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin has 13 million reasons (in dollars) to be content.
Quarterback Russell Wilson soon could become the highest paid player in NFL history.
Even for the lesser known players on the Seattle Seahawks roster, life has changed. The best table at the finest restaurants in town is a guarantee. Hotels offer upgrades to the best suite in the house.
There are new commercial endorsements and requests for public appearances. People who didn’t know their names a year ago now know their life stories and see them as heroes and community leaders.
Then there is the team's supercelebrity, cornerback Richard Sherman. Since winning the Super Bowl, Sherman was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Time magazine, joined Wilson at the White House Correspondent Dinner, was asked to speak at Harvard, will be in a Campbell Soup commercial with his mom and will grace the cover of this season’s "Madden 15" NFL video game.
Oh, and he also has a new contract worth $56 million, after making $600,000 last season.
"It’s been unbelievable and a year to remember," Sherman said this week. "Winning the Super Bowl and all the accolades that came with it are wonderful. You get some perks. You go places where you don’t even expect people to know who you are, but they do.
"It feels good and shows you accomplished something and made an impact. You can never quantify what that means. You take it for what it is and enjoy the moment."
Such an enormous change on the ladder of success leaves one key question: Once you become a star, can you remain true to who you are?
The answer to that will go a long way toward determining whether the Seahawks continue to play the game at a championship level.
Will all the acclaim from winning the Super Bowl make it difficult to stay humble and hungry?
"No, because that never was the end goal," Sherman said. "We have a bunch of guys who want to be in the [Pro Football] Hall of Fame and do more things than just win one Super Bowl.
"I think it’s more about love for the game that allows us not to get complacent. We have Pro Bowl players out here acting like they’re fighting or a job. That’s who we’re always going to be."
The coaches say they haven’t seen a single indication that these players have changed their attitude from a year ago.
"When you see how hard our guys are working, you wouldn't know they just won the Super Bowl," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The same work ethic is there."
Coach Pete Carroll said Sherman is a prime example because he hasn’t missed a single day of offseason workouts or voluntary practice sessions.
"I’m a ballplayer," Sherman said. "What else am I gonna do? When you’re a ballplayer in your heart, this is what you sleep, breathe and eat. I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else."
It’s about remembering where you came from. Sherman and Baldwin were among the overlooked and under-appreciated guys ... until now, of course. Angry Doug, as he is known to his teammates, said he has the same passion to prove himself. Sherman said he is still the kid who made good coming out of a rough Los Angeles neighborhood in Compton.
"I’m still the raggedy dog," Sherman said. "That never goes away. You can’t change how you were raised. You can teach and old dog new tricks, but you can’t change where he’s from."
Baldwin said it’s all about looking beyond where they are now.
"I think the guys we have on this team, all of them, want to leave a legacy that’s bigger than just winning a Super Bowl," Baldwin said when he signed his new contract. "Obviously everyone around us, the fans, the community, the city of Seattle, has shown that they’re extremely excited about us. But we’re just so anxious to get back to work."
In Monday’s practice, Thomas pulled aside a rookie and chastised him because Thomas felt he wasn’t playing at the proper tempo on every play. Then he patted him on the helmet and said, "Show me what you’ve got."
Thomas said one thing is never mentioned: winning the Super Bowl.
"It doesn’t matter now," he said. "It’s all about what’s next."
Carroll has been down this road before, although somewhat of a lesser scale, when his USC team won a national championship. He believes it’s his job to make sure the team’s attitude is in the right place.
"I take total responsibility for it," Carroll said. "We hope that the lessons we’ve been teaching all along will fit the situation that we’re faced with right now. We’re trying to monitor it really carefully. It’s an incredible challenge, but I love the challenge we have."
Carroll has a list of things he needs to see.
"For us as coaches, it’s about taking in all the information," he said. "How are the guys handling it? What’s their language like? Where’s their focus and are they tuned in? Making sure they’re not somewhere else and thinking about something else.
"If we start doing that, we won’t have a chance to be the type of team we’re capable of being. It takes discipline. I’m watching and listening for that discipline.”
Over the course of two seasons, the Seahawks went from commoners to royalty. Rich and famous has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages if one isn’t careful.
"Like they say, you never stay the same," Sherman said. "Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse."
Baldwin said there is a reason beyond athletic skill why the Seahawks became champions. It’s the same reason why they will not allow their success to go to their heads.
"We want to show that we belong, that it wasn’t a fluke," he said. "We want to show we can go out and do it again. And we will do it again."
It’s a nice honor to grace the "Madden 15" video game cover, but superstitious Seattle Seahawks fans who believe in the curse associated with the cover winner probably wish someone other than Richard Sherman had won.
Since players first starting appearing on the cover of the video game in 2000, a lot of bad things have happened to the man selected.
“I don’t believe in curses,” he said. “I believe in God.”
I’m not one to believe in a jinx or curse, either, but the evidence speaks for itself. Call it a strange coincidence or bad luck.
Barry Sanders surprisingly retired the year he was on the cover. Green Bay running back Dorsey Levens was added to later covers that year, but he injured a knee that season and played in only five games.
Minnesota quarterback Dante Culpepper suffered a season-ending injury after appearing on the cover.
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick was the cover player for the 2004 version. Do I even need to explain this one?
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb mocked the curse the year he was on the cover, saying it “might be a trend, but I don’t believe in the curse at all.”
In the first game that season, McNabb suffered a hernia and groin pull, eventually having surgery that ended his season.
Heck, there is even a former Seahawks player associated with the so-called curse. Running back Shaun Alexander was on the cover the season after the Seahawks made their first Super Bowl appearance. Alexander broke his foot in the third game that year and missed six games.
Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was the next man on the cover, and went on to become one of the biggest first-round quarterback busts ever.
Quarterback Brett Favre was on the cover the year after he retired in Green Bay, but unretired to join the New York Jets, tore a biceps muscle and finished the season with only two touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
And how about Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis? The year after rushing for 1,177 yards, he made the cover, and frankly, has never been the same player. He never has come close to those numbers while playing for three teams since.
But let’s end with a positive note, namely Megatron. Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson was lights-out awesome after appearing on the "Madden" cover. He broke or tied nine NFL receiving records and led the NFL in receiving yards, surpassing Jerry Rice’s single-season mark.
Time will tell how Sherman fares, but it’s clear he isn’t worried about it.
"I'm not angry," Baldwin said Thursday. "I'm passionate about what I do."
That passion paid off Thursday for the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver when he signed a contract extension that will pay him $13 million over the next three years, including $9 million that's guaranteed.
That's not what he wanted, not now anyway. He wanted to stay with what he calls his family, and that starts with cornerback Richard Sherman, his long-time friend from their days together at Stanford. Sherman was sitting on the front row at Baldwin's news conference Thursday.
"I called [Sherman] to discuss the terms of the deal before agreeing so I could ask his opinion," Baldwin said. "The first thing he said was we'll be able to be together a couple of more years.
"That was the overwhelming factor. I love this organization and my teammates. It's about being able to play side by side with my family. That's huge for me."
That feeling extends to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the men who gave him a chance to prove himself as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
"Those guys have been instrumental in my progress on and off the field," Baldwin said. "They're not only my bosses, but my friends. And I like to call them teammates.
"That John and Pete were willing to reward my hard work is a testament to the philosophy they have. Every word that has come out of their mouths has been honest and trustworthy, and that goes a long way for me."
Schneider pointed out a couple of key stats that show why Baldwin has been successful -- 92 percent of his fourth-quarter catches last year were for first downs, and his average of 10.7 yards per targeted throw was fifth-best among NFL receivers.
Nice numbers, but that really misses the point of why the Seahawks wanted to keep him.
"We are rewarding Doug for who he is more than what he does," Carroll said. "He's a great team guy. The leadership he brings is exactly the kind of makeup and mentality we seek.
"He's just the epitome of a great competitor. He always battles to the point that they call him Angry Doug. There's just a way about him that stands out."
Schneider said it's Baldwin's ability to get the job done in the clutch that stands out for him, along with his relentless attitude.
"Doug is a guy who represents what our organization is all about and the culture we have here," Schneider said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's reliable, smart and incredibly passionate. He acts like a pro and a champion every day. So we wanted to let everyone know how special this guy is and that he's a core part of what we do here."
Baldwin has played in the slot most of his three years at Seattle, but Carroll said he will move to split end in 2014, taking over the spot vacating by Golden Tate's departure to Detroit.
That likely means Percy Harvin will start in the slot, which won't surprise anyone. Baldwin also threw his name in the hat for the punt returner job in 2014.
"Doug always has shown the ability to do whatever we needed him to do," Carroll said. "He has extraordinary quickness and the ability to separate from anyone.''
But it's Baldwin's determination to prove his doubters wrong and overcome his obstacles that got him where he is now. Just like his buddy Sherman, Baldwin has accomplished more than most experts thought he could.
"Nothing changes for me just because I signed my name on a piece of paper," Baldwin said. "Obviously, I have a little more security, but that's not why I play football. I play football because I love the game and I put everything into it.
"This is about leaving a legacy and sharing it with other players. It's not about individuals here. We're always trying to get better and make each other better."
Which is why Baldwin was willing to take a little less to stay in Seattle for three more years.
"It was the best for both sides," Baldwin said. "When this comes up again, I'll still be young (28). And it leaves us flexibility as a team to be able to do certain things with other guys."
The main guy in that equation is quarterback Russell Wilson, who can renegotiate his contract after the 2014 season.
For Baldwin, Thursday was about sticking with his family and sending a message.
"The message is that hard work does pay off," he said. "I have a 12-year-old brother [Devon]. Since my junior year of college, I decided to live a life in a way he could look up to. So the message also is to him that you can accomplish whatever you want in life, even if you have failures, if you continue strong to get to where you want to go."
By almost everyone’s estimation, the rough and rugged NFC West was the best division in the NFL in 2013. It had the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, two teams in the NFC Championship Game (Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers) and another 10-game winner in the Arizona Cardinals. The St. Louis Rams were 7-9 but likely would have had a winning season in any other division.
And now? Other than adding Godzilla and three superheroes to the four teams, they could not get much better. It looks like the big boys on the NFC block will remain out west.
Most experts believe the Rams had one of the best drafts in the NFL, adding Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, giving St. Louis four first-round picks on what is arguably the best defensive line in football.
The 49ers had 12 draft picks, including seven in the first four rounds, and made a trade during the draft for talented Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson.
The Cardinals signed gigantic left tackle Jared Veldheer and blazing kick returner Ted Ginn in free agency. They also added a vicious hitter, Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, with their first draft pick.
As always happens with Super Bowl champs, the Seahawks lost a few key players to free agency, but they kept the man they really wanted to keep in defensive end Michael Bennett and locked up "Legion of Boom" stars Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman to long-term deals.
Believe it or not, the best division in the NFL just got better.
As usual, the Seahawks drafted some players other teams would have taken later, if at all. Should people question their choices, or have they earned the benefit of the doubt?
Terry Blount: Have we learned nothing from the past? Questioning Seattle's draft strategy, along with undrafted signees, now seems a little foolish. Shall I name a few who stand out that other teams passed up or the experts questioned? Sherman, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Malcolm Smith, for starters. The Seahawks bring in players with specific traits -- unusual athleticism, driving competitiveness and obvious intelligence. Where those players rank on another team's draft board means nothing to them. And at first glance from rookie camp, they found some winners in receivers Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, along with defensive end Cassius Marsh.
Josh Weinfuss: A little leeway should be given to the Seahawks because, first, they are the reigning NFL champions, and second, their personnel department has been able to piece together a pretty good roster with players who were not highly rated. With that being said, good will should only go so far. Sometimes a general manager and coach think they have the secret recipe and get cocky about their ability to find talent. When that happens, bad decisions are made. Obviously, the Seahawks have a reputation for picking good players, but they won't be right every time. Every team has an off draft and picks who don't pan out. It is also too early for us to know if some of their "rogue" picks will do anything. Their picks should definitely be questioned until they have a chance to show us their stuff.
Bill Williamson: The glue to the Seahawks is general manager John Schneider. Yes, coach Pete Carroll is a tremendous fit for the franchise and is a big part of the team's success. But Schneider is the architect of this franchise. He built this roster. There is little doubting the way he has drafted. Look at the core of the team -- they were all great value choices by Schneider. The tie goes to Schneider. You can doubt him if you choose, but it would be a lousy idea. Expect these Seattle rookies to develop into players. Schneider always wins.
@TerryBlountESPN No. People questioned Russell Wilson immediately after 2012 draft. We all know how that turned out! Takes time.- Tina Metcalf (@girlinseattle) May 27, 2014
Do the additions of Johnson and Carlos Hyde give the 49ers the most dangerous offense in the division?
Blount: Both players will help, but the real key for the 49ers is quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Having enough weapons wasn't really the problem. Using them effectively on a consistent basis and cutting down on mistakes is the issue. Kaepernick's extraordinary talent is unquestioned. But can he be the same type of team leader that Wilson is and make the big play in the most difficult moments? He couldn't do it last year in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. If he shows he can do that consistently when the big game is on the line, watch out.
Weinfuss: It is certainly looking like the 49ers have one of the most dangerous offenses in the division, if not the most dangerous. San Francisco has the right pieces at every position, from quarterback to running back to wide receiver to tight end. But the first question that came to mind when going through San Francisco's offensive depth chart is this: Will one football be enough to go around? This might turn into a case of the 49ers being better on paper than they are on the field, which has happened many times throughout the NFL. The Cardinals bolstered their skill positions during the offseason, giving themselves a lot of talent at wide receiver and tight end to complement two young running backs and a veteran quarterback who finds ways to win. A team can have all the ammunition in the world, but if the coach doesn't know how to use it, it will be stockpiled for naught.
Williamson: I think so. There is nothing missing from this offense. We saw how dynamic it can be when Crabtree returned from a torn Achilles last December. Put Crabtree, the clutch Anquan Boldin and Johnson together and that is a great veteran group of receivers. Someone is always going to be open. Rookie Bruce Ellington was added to give the 49ers the ability to take the top off of defenses, an aspect they didn't possess last season. We didn't even mention Davis at tight end. Really, how is this offense going to be stopped? Kaepernick looked like a completely different quarterback when Crabtree played last season. Kaepernick with all of these weapons? Oh, and we didn't even mention the bread and butter of the 49ers' offense -- the running game. Hyde, Gore and a healthy Marcus Lattimore? How do you defend this group?
@BWilliamsonESPN sure does...how can you spy Kap now with 3 legit wrs + VD...Hyde taking on a 7 man front with our bulldozing line. #1- CDM (@CDM49er) May 14, 2014
After a narrow miss last season, have the Cardinals made enough of the right moves to get into the playoffs?
Blount: I don't think they needed to make many moves to reach the playoffs. Record-wise, they were a playoff team last season, but a victim of circumstances in the playoff structure. So the real question is can the Cardinals catch Seattle and/or San Francisco? And my answer is yes, especially the 49ers. Quarterback Carson Palmer will be better after having a full season in the Arizona offense. Bruce Arians might be the most underrated coach in the NFL. The team clearly is on the rise, while San Francisco's offseason turmoil could come back to bite it.
Weinfuss: The Cardinals have made enough moves to make the playoffs this season. They missed the postseason a year ago by a game, which might have been different if Arizona had been stocked with a better kick returner, left tackle, second cornerback and safety. The Cards addressed those issues in the offseason, which should make them better in 2014. Adding left tackle Veldheer to anchor the offensive line should ease Arians' concerns about Palmer's blind side. One thing Ginn has shown throughout his career is that he can return kicks with the best. But the biggest difference for the Cards will be their improved secondary. Signing talented veteran Cromartie gives the Cardinals two lockdown cornerbacks (along with Patrick Peterson) and drafting Bucannon gave Arizona an instant upgrade against tight ends and big receivers -- which there are plenty of in NFC West.
Williamson: I really like how well the Cardinals are coached. I think Arians is on to something. His players seem to respond to him. So the program will continue to rise under Arians. Also, I love the defense; it is nasty, aggressive and ball-hawking. Add great defense and a well-respected coaching staff and a team is going to win a lot of games. I think the bottom line with the Cardinals is quarterback play. Palmer had his moments last season, but I'm not a big believer in him. I think he will cost the Cardinals at some point. Maybe this is a playoff team, but I think the Cardinals are a couple of steps behind the Seahawks and the 49ers. The deficit starts at quarterback.
@joshweinfuss no. if o-line depth isn't addressed, look out for consistent pressure off the right side and more INTs from cardiac carson- Sean Kirchheimer (@stkirch) May 21, 2014
The Rams decided not to draft help at wide receiver and waited until the sixth round to add a young quarterback. Will their offense score enough to make up ground in the NFC West?
Blount: Sure, it would have helped to add a top receiver, but is there a bigger unknown in the entire division than Sam Bradford? What the Rams, and everyone else, have to find out is whether Bradford is an elite quarterback. Frankly, I have my doubts, but he did play well last season before his injury. Bradford's situation is much different than that of Kaepernick, who is as gifted a player physically as you will ever see. In Bradford's case, it's hard to know how good he really is or can be, because he hasn't had top talent around him. And it doesn't help that he has to play six games against three of the of the best defenses in the NFL. It's time for Bradford to step up, no matter whom he is throwing the ball to each week.
Weinfuss: The depth of the NFC West makes this the toughest question of the four. The Rams' additions weren't significant improvements to their offense, but will help. Bradford will come back with a vengeance and try to light up the scoreboard. He will have a talented group of receivers, but can they score enough to close the gap from the bottom of the West? Not sure that can happen. Rookie Robinson will take his lumps and bruises and might not come into his own until the second half of the season, so the Rams have to be hoping it's not too late by then. Points will be at a premium in the West, especially considering how good the three other defenses are, so the Rams will have to be even better than expected to make up ground, and I'm not sure they are ready for that just yet.
Williamson: Points scored? Who needs points with that defense. Man, the Rams' defense is getting silly good. Adding Donald to that defensive front should have been banned. It's simply unfair. The Rams are not going to allow many points this season. So the offense won't have to be overly dynamic. With that said, I am not a big Bradford fan. I don't think he is the answer. Until the Rams upgrade at quarterback, I don't think they will reach their full potential or be able to hang in the division race. But they will dangerous every week because of the defense.
The Legion of Boom may need to change its name to the Legion of Loot.
Cornerback Richard Sherman’s contract extension, which he signed Wednesday, means the Seahawks now have committed more than $97 million to two players in the secondary.
Sherman’s deal is a whopping $57.4 million over four years. Free safety Earl Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million extension last week.
Seattle made both men the highest-paid players in the NFL at their respective positions. And they deserve it. This team would not have won the Super Bowl without them.
The Seahawks have done what they said they would do, keeping the stars of the team in place. That includes re-signing free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett for four years and $28.5 million.
And the organization gave coach Pete Carroll a contract extension worth north of $9 million a year. That doesn’t count against the team's salary cap, but shows Seattle's commitment to rewarding its own.
Next up will be quarterback Russell Wilson, who probably will negotiate a new contract after the 2014 season that will pay him around $20 million a year.
General manager John Schneider calls this the “pillars of the organization.” But it also means the Seahawks must continue to do what they do best by relying on young, unproven guys at other spots and having to let some veterans move on down the road.
“We have stayed true to our philosophy and haven’t wavered,” Schneider said. “We’ve been tempted, but we treaded lightly in free agency to be able to reward players like Richard and Earl. I’m proud our staff has been able to stick to the plan of developing our young players while taking care of our own.
“It’s the way we had set up our model, knowing what was coming and trying to keep together as many of these guys as we possibly could. You make fun decisions, like [Sherman] today, and very tough decisions, as well. We knew what we had in front us and what we have ahead.”
With so much salary-cap money tied up in a few key players, continuing to draft well is imperative. That starts anew Thursday night.
It also means bringing in rookie free agents to contribute. That’s nothing new for the Seahawks. They had 18 undrafted players on their Super Bowl roster.
The formula must continue to show results for the Seahawks to stay at or near the top in the NFL. Pay the very best what they deserve and show them loyalty, but realize that some quality veterans will become salary-cap casualties.
We’ve seen that this spring with free-agent losses like wide receiver Golden Tate, cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan, along with releasing defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.
All of them contributed to the Super Bowl journey. But the financial realities of the NFL mean you have to prioritize your options. It’s part of the process. More tough decisions will come down the road in the form of left tackle Russell Okung, linebacker K.J. Wright and running back Marshawn Lynch, to name a few.
The Seahawks' salary-cap pie has some big slices that are spoken for, so it can’t feed everyone.
That’s where the team philosophy comes in, believing in the coaching staff’s ability to fill in the gaps with young players, often overlooked by other teams, getting a chance to show what they can do.
The blueprint is so important to the Seahawks that they produced a 12-page brochure to show potential undrafted rookies why they should sign with the Seahawks.
It’s about finding value where others don’t. That’s how Sherman became a $57 million man, a fifth-round draft choice who most experts thought was too tall and too skinny to play cornerback in the NFL.
“This is a humbling experience,” Sherman said Wednesday. “I was the guy no one wanted, but Pete and John gave me a chance, and now they [have] done what they said they would do.”
The Legion of Boom now is the Legion of Loot. The Seahawks will pay top dollar to the best of the best, and they will give the little guy a chance to show he can get there.
Other NFL players invited to attend the prestigious event include Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Minnesota Vikings running Adrian Peterson and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, along with his father, former NFL quarterback and West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck.
Actor/comedian Joel McHale will host the event, which is held at the Hay-Adams Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. The event always includes a lot of good-natured ribbing at political officials.
Seattle Seahawks stars Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson are learning that some of their newfound fame is good and some of it is not so good.
It can surprise you. In this case, the man you might think would become a victim of his fame -- Sherman -- is enjoying enormous popularity and respect.
And the man you would expect to enjoy only the positive of his celebrity status -- Wilson – is seeing some painful aspects of his private life become part of the public spectrum.
Wilson’s marital situation is no one else’s business. But he made a public statement last week, through the Seahawks, that he was divorcing, asking for prayers and saying he would make no further comment about it.
Why would Wilson make a public statement?
As the quarterback of the Super Bowl champions, everything Wilson does is news. He is the most popular person in the Pacific Northwest, and his athletic skills, along with his classy demeanor, have helped make him a national celebrity.
Wilson is everywhere these days, going to spring training with the Texas Rangers, throwing out the first pitch at games for the Rangers and the Mariners, making a cameo appearance in the upcoming movie "Entourage," sitting courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game with Jay Z and Beyonce, etc.
Wilson knew people had started asking questions about why his wife wasn’t with him at any of the events he was attending, so he wisely released a statement to eliminate any questions.
Other players for the Seahawks wouldn’t need to do this, but Wilson has reached the point that his personal life is scrutinized in much the same way a Hollywood star's is. To say nothing only would have increased speculation and led to rumors and inaccurate reports by the media that specialize in private lives of public figures.
I don’t care why Wilson is divorcing. Many people reading this have been through a divorce, as have I. It’s always a painful experience, but I hope he and Ashton get through it as smoothly as possible.
Sadly, his fame won’t allow that to happen without some people trying to guess about the situation and listing unfair and unfounded reasons. I won’t dignify any of them here by mentioning them.
However, a fair question to ask: Will going through a divorce affect Wilson’s play in 2014?
Wilson is as focused and driven an individual as you will find. His teammates love him and will have his back. His strength of character is what got him where he is. He’ll be fine, but he now knows his personal life is under a microscope.
Wilson has experienced the good side of fame since the Super Bowl victory, as well, becoming the No. 1 player in merchandise sales. But no one on the team has benefited more than Sherman.
Who could have imagined Sherman's newfound fame after his postgame rant on national TV moments after a game-saving play against San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game?
In case you’ve forgotten, here it is:
“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like [Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me [a message to Crabtree]. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”
Sherman was vilified by some people after those remarks. Some referred to him as a gangster or a thug. But Sherman got the last word and turned around the rhetoric as an example of racism.
Now he is roundly applauded and seen as the brilliant and informed man he is. Last week, he was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
He also was asked to speak at Harvard Business School last week, and he addressed his response to the criticism he received.
“I wanted to educate the uneducated,” Sherman said. “I felt the need to turn the discussion on its head. I chose my words very carefully, though I couldn’t control my tone. My delivery left something to be desired. But I knew what I was doing. When they called me a thug, I provoked a discussion.”
Sherman now is the toast of the town, so to speak, as a renaissance man in a football uniform. He remains controversial, but his popularity has soared to unimaginable heights as a result of those few emotional moments on national TV.
Fame giveth, and fame taketh away. That is the lesson to learn for Wilson and Sherman.
And here’s another lesson both men should learn: All fame is fleeting.
A police officer pulled him over just up the street from the Seahawks' facility. The officer took one look at the driver and let him go with a warning, immediately becoming the most popular policeman with all the 12s.
After all, it was Thomas' big day, the official announcement of the contract extension to make him the first $10 million-a-year NFL safety. The exact numbers are a four-year, $40 million deal with $27.75 million guaranteed and a $9.25 million signing bonus.
"This is a family to me," Thomas said. “I love everybody in this organization. It's not about me. It’s about the people that helped me along the way, too. This is where I grew up [as a football player]. I’m excited to keep this going.”
So are the Seahawks. General manager John Schneider called it a “historic day.”
Coach Pete Carroll said of Thomas’ extension: “It's a very proud moment for us.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who also is negotiating a contract extension that could be completed soon, sent out this tweet and Instagram photo.
Asked about Sherman's contract, Thomas said he's not worried. “Sherm's got it under control.”
Thomas's extension will piggyback on the final year of his current contract, which pays him $4.6 million in 2014. So the extension keeps him in Seattle through the 2018 season when he’ll be 29.
Thomas said the contract negotiations started out of the blue. He wanted to have it done before training camp.
He said it was important to him to become the highest paid safety, not for the money, but to show his separation as a competitor.
When the news conference ended, Thomas asked all the Seattle defensive coaches to join him on stage because he wanted them to be a part of it.
That says a lot about why the Seahawks were willing to make Thomas’s salary reflect the fact he is the best safety in football.
And being a Seattle hero and good guy might also help you get by with a warning -- this time around -- when you're caught speeding.
Among topics we'll discuss: Herschel Walker saying he could still play in the NFL, a 49ers fan suing the NFL for $50 million over Seattle’s ticket situation in the NFC title game, Megatron potentially finding a loophole in the NFL’s anti-celebration dunk rule and the Seahawks Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson in the news for vastly different reasons. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
News broke Monday that Thomas had reached a four-year extension with the Seahawks that will make him the highest paid safety in the NFL as the first $10-million a year man at his position.
Team officials also are believed to be close to reaching an extension with Sherman that likely will make him the highest paid cornerback in the game, somewhere north of $12 million a year.
This is the payoff for the moves earlier that forced the Seahawks to release defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, along with seeing receiver Golden Tate sign with the Detroit Lions.
But general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll said all along they had a plan to keep the key young players they needed to keep without ruining the team's salary structure.
Most of Thomas' new deal won't start until 2015 and runs through the 2018 season when Thomas will be 29. He's in the final year of a contract that will pay him $4.6 million in 2014 and count $5.5 million against the salary cap.
The Seahawks are $14.7 million under the cap for now. Obviously, some of that money will go to Thomas up front but most of his new deal is backloaded, including $27.7 million that is guaranteed.
Sherman's extension will be next. Could the Seahawks have a news conference for both players on the same day?
The Seahawks want to get Sherman's new deal out of the way before they have to renegotiate Russell Wilson's new contract after the 2014 season. Those three deals will count somewhere between $35 million and $40 million against the salary cap.
What that means is a few starting players on the team now won't be on the team after 2014. But the Seahawks are doing a remarkable job of playing the salary-cap game well to keeping the nucleus of elite players that won the Super Bowl.
The NFL cornerback who smack-talks athlete stereotypes.
Sherman came to the nation’s attention after the NFC Championship Game in January when his now infamous postgame rant was seen on national television. But that isn’t why Sherman made this list. An excerpt from Gregory's story:
Sherman’s rant solidified his reputation as one of the brashest and most candid players in the buttoned-up NFL. More important, it sparked a national conversation about race, stereotyping and sportsmanship.
When critics labeled the dreadlocked defensive star a "thug," Sherman, a Compton, Calif.–raised Stanford graduate, engaged the debate, asking if the term was today’s way of calling him the N word? In a heartbeat, Sherman altered the discourse and emerged as the smartest voice in the room.
If reports Tuesday are accurate, cornerback Richard Sherman is about to become a very wealthy man.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports first reported the Seahawks are close to reaching a contract extension with Sherman that likely will pay him more than $13 million a year.
Technically, that would make Sherman the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL at the moment. Darrelle Revis, Sherman’s rival, signed a two-year deal with New England worth $32 million overall, but it pays him $12 million this season.
Revis was released by Tampa Bay earlier this year. He had a $16-million-a-year deal with the Bucs.
Sherman is the best corner in the game, so it’s no surprise he will be paid in a fashion to reflect it. However, it will be a bit of a surprise if this deal gets done ahead of a contract extension for Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas.
It was thought the Seahawks would work an extension with Thomas first, then move to Sherman. Or they might wait to use a franchise tag on Sherman at the end of the 2014 season.
But reports Tuesday claim Seattle could reach an extension with Sherman before the NFL draft, which starts May 8.
Thomas, in the final year of a deal that pays him $5.5 million this season, is looking for a deal that will make him the first $10 million-a-year safety. Sherman is in the last year of his original rookie contract and is scheduled to make $1.5 million this year.
The best-case scenario for the Seahawks is to have both Sherman and Thomas signed to extensions before training camp starts this summer.
The Seahawks have been conservative in the free-agent market this spring. Along with releasing a few veteran players, to free up salary-cap space, Seattle knew it needed to look to the future on top players it wanted to re-sign.
Another one of those is quarterback Russell Wilson, who has a bargain-basement base salary this season of $662,000. Wilson can re-negotiate his deal at the end of this season, and could command over $20 million a year.
So Sherman could be the first of the trio to hit the contract jackpot, if today’s reports are accurate, but it’s wise to be cautiously optimistic.
The Seahawks haven't commented on this, and they probably won't. That’s the right policy when negotiating with star players and their agents on deals worth so much money.
Things can change, but all indications are the Seahawks are doing everything they can to show Sherman how much he means to them and how they want him to be here for many years to come.
Sherman is an extraordinary athlete who has revolutionized the cornerback position, proving a tall and lanky guy can play the spot as well as anyone has ever played it.
Since coming to the NFL in 2011, Sherman leads the league in interceptions with 20 and passes defensed with 60. His eight interceptions in 2013 were an NFL best. Sherman is a big-play specialist, often showing his best at times when the game is on the line.
His 58-yard pick-six last September at Houston in the fourth quarter is the reason Seattle was able to win the game in OT. And his deflection in the end zone, which linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted, saved the game in Seattle’s 23-17 victory over San Francisco in the NFC Championship.
Sadly, the play became the secondary story to Sherman’s national TV rant afterwards. It reinforced his reputation of being a big mouth jerk, which is obviously false to anyone who knows him and talks to him on a regular basis.
Sherman is a caring individual, a brilliant guy, and a person dedicated to perfecting his craft and helping his community. He also is the best cornerback of his era.
Contract status: He’s an incredible bargain for now, but not for long. Sherman is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $1.4 million this season. That’s peanuts compared to what he will receive in his next contract. The Seahawks would love to work out a contract extension and wrap this up before the 2014 season begins, but it’s unlikely. They also have the option of using a franchise tag on Sherman after this season.
No. 2 -- Richard Sherman and Malcolm Smith make the game-saving play in the NFC Championship.
Many people, however, will only remember what came a few moments later with Sherman’s screaming rant against Crabtree on national TV, but it might have been the 49ers in the Super Bowl instead of the Seahawks if not for that play by Sherman and Smith.
That play was one of the few times Kaepernick challenged Sherman all game. It was a type of throw that rarely works against the All-Pro cornerback. But Smith didn’t get enough credit for finishing the play, using his speed to race to the ball and make the interception.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has a saying for his players: “Good things happen to those who run.” It’s certainly true for Smith, one of the league’s fastest linebackers. He proved it in the Super Bowl with his 69-yard pick-6 that made him the MVP.