What do we make of the Boston Herald's report that the Patriots have inquired about trading for Seahawks corner Richard Sherman? Here are five quick thoughts.
The Patriots don't have pressing needs at corner. Yet. Should Malcolm Butler sign his tender and play for the Patriots opposite Stephon Gilmore in 2017 in order to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent the following year, then Bill Belichick would possess one of the top cornerback duos in the league. No need to overextend for an All-Pro. But if Butler signs his tender and is traded? Then New England would feature a cornerback depth chart behind Gilmore that includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones. Though Rowe could be in line for a larger role next season after performing well in spurts during his first go-round with the Patriots, and though Cyrus Jones was a second-round pick a year ago, it would come as little surprise if the Belichick and Nick Caserio opted to add depth at the position. Sherman, obviously, would be quality depth.
The Patriots might have to do some wheeling and dealing before they can wheel and deal. Assuming Butler signs his tender, a player-for-player swap -- Butler-for-Sherman -- seems unlikely since Butler's size doesn't align with what Seattle typically looks for at that spot. Sending picks may be the way to go, but the Patriots don't have all that much in terms of draft capital at the moment: two third-round selections, one fourth-rounder, two fifths, a sixth and a seventh. Would some combination of those get it done? Well, how desperate are the Seahawks to ship Sherman out of town? The Patriots could try to work out a trade for Butler that would land them the choices they need, but in that scenario they'd have to wait on the Super Bowl XLIX hero to sign his tender before they could do anything. Because this is considered a deep draft for corners and safeties, if the Seahawks are looking to begin to build their new age Legion of Boom they might be focused on stockpiling picks.
The salary-cap numbers could work. But just because they could doesn't mean they will. Obviously. Sherman is under contract for two more seasons at what look like very reasonable base salaries of $11 million and $11.4 million. The Patriots have nearly $22 million in cap space. Paying both Sherman and Gilmore No. 1 corner contracts, though, seems aggressive as they build their roster for 2017 and beyond. Not impossible. Just aggressive for a team that typically allocates its resources as the Patriots have.
Even if he's not what he once was, Sherman is still among the best in the league. Just look at how the Patriots handled him last season. Sherman played all but seven snaps. He was targeted by Tom Brady twice. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder was limited by an MCL injury last season, and The MMQB posted a piece on Wednesday saying that his ability to change direction has diminished. Still, he proved in 2016 he was more effective than the vast majority of his peers, allowing quarterbacks a completion percentage of 51.3 and a rating of 68.3 when targeted. He's played mostly zone during his career in Seattle, but he can also play man on the outside, he tackles, and his ball-tracking skills continue to be his calling card. Sherman, 29, broke up six passes and picked off four more last year to give him an even 30 interceptions since he came into the league in 2011.
Sherman's fit in New England would be fascinating. Both on and off the field. On the field, he'd give the Patriots two long boundary corners who can press at the line of scrimmage and bully opposing receivers. If you lump Rowe (6-foot-1) into that group, that's three. No matter where Atlanta's Julio Jones, Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, New Orleans' Mike Thomas or Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin line up next season, the Patriots would be prepared to match their size. Sherman's presence on the roster might appear redundant for a team that lost its best slot corner (Logan Ryan) and might lose its quickest (Butler), but in today's NFL there's no such thing as too many big and talented corners. Off the field, Sherman wouldn't have to become an automaton. Martellus Bennett's one season inside the walls of Gillette Stadium -- not to mention Rob Gronkowski's seven -- would be proof of that. Sherman may, however, have to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check than he did last season when he publicly questioned coaches and confronted teammates.