Two years ago, the Seahawks found themselves struggling to come up with a strategy for negotiating with left tackle Russell Okung, who decided not to use an agent when becoming a free agent. The Seahawks will be in a similar position this year with cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sherman, who enters the last year of his contract with an $11 million salary and a $13.2 million cap charge, likely will at some point be asked by the Seahawks to renegotiate the deal in order to reduce his cap hit, either by taking less now or by extending the contract in a manner that reduces his cap charge. If/when Seattle presents Sherman with its best offer, Sherman won’t be able to compare the offer to whatever any other team would offer if he refuses the overture and gets released.
It’s called “gauging the market,” and it happens all the time. Even though conversations between agents and other teams regarding a player’s value if/when he’s released constitute tampering, it’s impossible for a player to assess what’s behind Door No. 1 without getting a peek behind Door No. 2. Having an agent facilitates that approach; by representing himself, Sherman will have a harder time learning what other teams will pay.
There are other ways to skin the cat, for example by using media members or players already on a given team as intermediaries. Still, having those communications carries plenty of risk for teams that could end up on the wrong end of an investigation that could result in the stripping of draft picks.
In many cases, the player’s current team benefits from a player gauging the market, since it helps him realize that his current team is willing to pay more than whatever any other team would offer. That dynamic could prompt the Seahawks to authorize Sherman to attempt to find a trade partner, which would give him license to speak to other teams — and which would allow those teams to openly outline what they’d pay Sherman as part of a trade, and to discreetly make it known what would be available if he could be signed on the open market without sending a player or a pick to his current team.
Apart from the nuts and bolts, the fact that Sherman doesn’t have an agent means that the Seahawks will have to talk to him directly about his value, requiring a level of sensitivity that teams typically don’t have to exercise when arguing, for example, that a great player isn’t quite as great as he used to be.
However it works out, it will be trickier for the Seahawks to work something out to keep Sherman at less than $11 million for 2018. And that ultimately could be the wisdom of Sherman’s decision, since it essentially puts the Seahawks in check — and possibly in checkmate — regarding any plan the team may have had to try to keep Sherman around for less money.