Sherman and other young NFL stars are too willing to give up potential leverage

When a player negotiates his own deal without an agent, there are always questions whether a team took advantage of his lack of negotiating experience.

So it wasn’t surprising that Richard Sherman was knocked – notably on Pro Football Talk – for negotiating an incentive-laden contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Even after Sherman told Peter King of The MMQB that the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions said the incentive-laden deal was too rich for them, and the Oakland Raiders said they didn’t have the cap money to compete, PFT called it a “substandard deal, one that any good experienced agent could have improved upon easily and quickly.’’

Since it appears nobody else was willing to offer more, only the 49ers know if Sherman got the best deal they were willing to give or whether he left money on the table. It’s also hard to determine what the market is for a veteran Pro Bowl cornerback coming off a torn ACL.

I think he should have negotiated a one-year deal. Then he would have had more leverage next year if he returns to his Pro Bowl form this year.

And I think he put too much emphasis on playing against the Seahawks twice a year.

After all, it’s a business. The Seahawks made a business decision that they’d rather save $11 million against the cap by cutting him. Sherman shouldn’t take it personally.

I also thought Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars should have played for the fifth-year option number of almost $19 million instead of taking a team-friendly three year deal and giving up the leverage he would have had next year with a breakout season. But Bortles has an agent, so there was little criticism of his decision.

And Tom Brady has signed below-market deals for most of his career and gets credit for being a team-first player.

But to me, the larger question isn’t the contract but how Sherman plays this year.

If he returns to his old form and earns the incentives, both the 49ers and Sherman will be winners. And the teams that declined to add more incentives will have to think they let a Pro Bowl corner get away.

If he is just an average cornerback, the 49ers were right in insisting on an incentive- laden deal and the teams that passed on him won’t be second-guessed.

In any case, the two 49er-Seahawk games just became a lot more interesting. At least one of them should be in prime time. Especially the one in Seattle, which will be a homecoming for him.

Sherman will have something to prove in that game. At least he seems to think so.

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