Power Players

Why Richard Sherman turned down millions of dollars from the Detroit Lions to play for the 49ers instead

Richard Sherman on the field for the San Francisco 49ers.
Roy K. Miller | Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Richard Sherman is a star cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers who is in his ninth season in the league.

After being drafted in 2011, Sherman played for the Seattle Seahawks for seven years before signing a three-year deal with the 49ers in 2018. That deal, according to NFL.com, is worth a maximum $39.15 million with a $3 million signing bonus guaranteed up front.

In a recent interview with Dave Lombardi of The Athletic, Sherman explains why his decision to sign with the 49ers had nothing to do with money. In fact, he says, he was offered a lucrative contract by the Detroit Lions that would have guaranteed him $20 million, which is way more than the $3 million guaranteed by the 49ers. But, he decided to turn that money down in order to play for a team that he felt was a better fit.

Injured cornerback Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks smiles from the sidelines before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field on December 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
Otto Greule Jr | Getty Images

"(49ers coach Kyle Shanahan's) culture and the way he did things was very similar to how we did things in Seattle, and what I was accustomed to," he says. "That made a huge difference. Hey, I can get this $20 million guaranteed and be in Detroit and lose football games. Or I can go to a place where I'm very comfortable with the scheme, coach and culture, and I'm very comfortable with the things they do and I really believe we can win."

Sherman emphasizes that he's used to an easygoing work environment, where he listens to music at practice and is relaxed in meetings — an environment that seems to be a bit opposite of the Lions. "I don't like the stressful environment in football," he says. "(The Lions) condition every day after practice. My body isn't built to run all day and night. I'll be prepared, but I don't have to be run into the ground."

Sherman's decision to sign with the 49ers came at a time when the NFL veteran was ready to bet on himself both on the field and in the boardroom. In a 2018 article penned for The Players' Tribune, the Stanford University alum detailed why he negotiated his new contract without an agent by his side.

"One of the main reasons I had decided to represent myself in negotiations was because I knew it would be a big challenge, and I never shy away from a challenge," he wrote. "But also, I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else. So I thought, 'Who better than me?'"

To prepare, Sherman says he "downloaded past contracts from the [National Football League Players Association] database and, with the union's help, spent a lot of time studying the language and structure and nuances within contracts." After doing his homework and speaking with team executives, Sherman says he eventually settled on a deal that included a lot of the things he wanted.

Under his previous contract with Seattle, he had no guaranteed money for 2018. But under his contract with the 49ers, he was guaranteed $3 million at signing and another $2 million if he passed a physical exam before Nov. 11, 2018. At the time, Sherman was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.

"In a sport where contracts aren't fully guaranteed, money in hand is better than anything," he wrote. "So $5 million for just signing the contract and passing a physical is a big win for me."

Sherman's decision to negotiate his own contract and leave money on the table with the Detroit Lions has now paid off. On Feb. 2, the 31-year-old will play alongside his 49er teammates in the 54th Super Bowl game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Though this isn't his first Super Bowl appearance, he emphasizes that this one is a bit more special because his almost five-year-old son will get to see him play.

"My son gets to see me play. My son gets to go to the Super Bowl," he told reporters earlier this month. "My son's birthday is three days after the Super Bowl, and he wants a ring for his birthday, and I'm going to do my best to bring that to him."

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