The Cleveland Browns will be looking to beef up their defense this offseason and veteran cornerback Richard Sherman is reportedly interested in signing with the AFC North squad.
Sherman has familiarity with Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who was his defensive backs coach in San Francisco in 2019 before coming to Cleveland. Sherman’s reported interest in the Browns comes via Cleveland.com, which discussed the free-agent cornerback on Thursday.
“Sherman is a guy who still looks good to me from afar. It doesn’t look like he’s being exploited by the oppositions quarterback and passing attack,” Dennis Manoloff said, breaking down the news on More Sports & Les Levine. “He would bring that swag, he’d bring that elder-statesman, ‘I’ve been there before’ knowledge. I’m not saying Denzel Ward has to have a guy like that, but I’d rather have him than not if I could get him.”
PFF: Richard Sherman’s Only Battle is Against Age
With the Browns tasting playoff victory for the first time in over a quarter-century, Sherman’s leadership and postseason pedigree could go a long way in helping the team take the next step. However, he’ll be 33 next season, which is getting up there in age at a position where speed and athleticism is a necessity.
That being said Sherman is still one of the best cover defenders in football, per Pro Football Focus, which has him as the second-ranked free agent cornerback this offseason.
“Sherman’s only battle is against age, but he’s still the prototype for the classic Seattle cover-3 system,” PFF wrote of Sherman. “Injuries have limited him in recent years, but a healthy Sherman is still very productive, as evidenced by his 90.3 overall grade in 2019.”
Sherman has played his last three seasons in San Francisco after seven in Seattle. However, he’s not optimistic that a return to the 49ers is in the card.
“If there’s some miracle that happens, then sure there’s an opening,” Sherman said after the year, per ESPN. “But there’s 40 free agents and they’ll probably have $30 million or less in cap and they have got to bring back [LT Trent Williams], who costs over $20 million. They have to pay [LB Fred Warner], who costs $18 million-plus a year. So anybody who knows the situation understands that.”
Sherman played in just five games last year, but had been relatively heathy in all his years prior, outside of his final season in Seattle where he played just nine games.
Sherman would have to mend fences from his brief, albeit well-documented beef with Baker Mayfield two seasons ago. Sherman said that Mayfield refused to shake his hand at the cointoss, but backtracked once video proved otherwise.
“That’s it,” Sherman said after the 49ers won 31-3. “They are making way too big of a story of a blowout. He pissed us off. We put a foot in his ass. End of story.”
Richard Sherman Would be Mentor for Browns Young CBs
The Browns have two young corners who they like in Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. However, both have dealt with injuries early on in their careers, with Williams — a second-round pick of the Browns in 2019 — missing the entirety of last season due to what he said was axillary nerve damage in the shoulder.
Williams was joined by rookie safety Grant Delpit on the sideline for the year, but Browns general manager Andrew Berry is confident that they’ll be back in action next season.
“Those two individuals deserve a ton of credit because that is not easy to go through when in Grant’s case, you are a rookie, and in Greedy’s case, you are in your second year of your career in the NFL,” Berry told reporters. “It can be discouraging when all you want is quick progress and that is not necessarily happening. Both of those guys have done a phenomenal job with their rehab, and certainly, we look forward to having them in 2021.”
When healthy, Ward is one of the best cornerbacks in football. Last season he played 12 games due to injuries and COVID-19 but was a force when on the field. He ranked 13th in outside coverage grade and was tied for third at the position in forced incompletions (14), per PFF.
“We are going to do a lot of self-reflection going into this offseason, seeing things that we were good at and seeing things that we were not good at, critiquing ourselves and working on what specifically we have to get better at for ourselves so we are going to better for this team,” Ward said after the season ended. “Everybody is going to go out and work out and get ready for this upcoming season, and once we get back with the team, the coaches and everybody. I am sure they are going to set in place a good plan for us and we are going to go execute it.”