By Brent Stecker
There are two sides to having elite players in the NFL. On one hand, they're essential to a team's success. But on the other, when their contracts are up, they will command a substantial raise that could hamstring a team's ability to retain other vital players.
It's a reality that the Seahawks and general manager John Schneider know very well as several young stars approach the end of their rookie contracts.
Cornerback Richard Sherman is one of those players, and he's in line for a huge contract as he approaches the end of the rookie deal he signed in 2011.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman will be eligible for a contract extension next offseason, when some of the Seahawks' other young stars will be nearing the ends of their rookie deals as well. (AP)
"I think for Sherman, what is interesting is, what does he want to do? Is it important to him to get a really big, almost over-market deal? Because there's a big gap between what most of the corners make and what Darrelle Revis' average is," Sando said. "If you're Richard Sherman, you might feel like, 'Hey, I'm as good as (Revis) is. I want that type of money,' and that's his prerogative. But that may make it tough – if he's able to get that or wants that – for Seattle to do a deal when you're trying to do other guys' (deals), too."
In addition to Sherman, the Seahawks have quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Earl Thomas, left tackle Russell Okung and cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond all scheduled to hit free agency at some point over the next few seasons, so it's unclear how the team's available money will shake out.
One thing is clear, though – Sherman is about as valuable to the Seahawks as any cornerback is to any NFL team. In his two-plus seasons, he's established himself as one of the most dominant corners in the NFL, and his rise has been a big part of the Seahawks turning into an NFC powerhouse.
"I think Sherman's a great fit in Seattle. He's exactly what they're looking for," Sando said. "On the field he seems to be exactly what they're looking for, in the meeting room, off the field, seems to have everything together."
The Seahawks have an advantage with Sherman in that he has another year before his contract is up, meaning there is plenty of time to strike an extension.
"They have an opportunity here," Sando said. "It's not like he's a free agent after this year. You have next year, and when you are taking care of players that you want to keep, it helps to have that year of leeway because that gives them incentive to take a deal, too. It isn't necessarily the same as it would be if they were an unrestricted free agent right now."
Luckily for Seattle, Revis' contract isn't quite the benchmark, as it's incentive-loaded and not guaranteed. Therefore, his $16 million average is unlikely to be approached by any other cornerback. In actuality, Sherman could be in line for a contract more in the $10-12 million-a-year range.
"It's a totally different situation with Sherman. He's gonna get guaranteed money – that's why he'll want to do a deal. He hasn't had the big deal yet," Sando said. "The guarantee is what you play for and live for in the NFL, when it can end at any time. To me, you're gonna get the guarantee, which means you're probably not gonna get the same average that Revis got. That seems like a trade-off for me."