As the dust settles on the contract that agent Richard Sherman negotiated with the 49ers for his only client, cornerback Richard Sherman, the agent is defending the work that he did. As expected.
That’s the genius of the low-key lowball deal that 49ers executive Paraag Marathe negotiated with Sherman for Sherman. Sherman the client always will boast that it was a great deal, to justify the work of Sherman the agent. And Sherman the client/agent is/are boasting.
“I don’t think any agent in the business could have done a better job of negotiating this contract,” Sherman told Peter King of SI.com. “As long as I’m content with what I’m making, nothing else matters to me.”
That second sentence seems to undercut the first one, coming off as a recognition that maybe an agent could have done better but that doesn’t matter because I’m happy with the deal that I negotiated for myself. Sherman has to be happy with the deal. Ego and pride will prevent him from ever calling it was it is: A substandard deal, one that any good, experienced agent could have improved upon easily and quickly.
Consider this claim from Sherman: “Once I make a Pro Bowl, $8 million the next year is guaranteed for me.” That’s not technically true.
If Sherman makes the Pro Bowl in 2018, an $8 million injury guarantee vests for him on the third day of the 2019 league year. Which means that the 49ers can cut him before that day in the middle of March with no financial consequence — even if he’s injured. (The 49ers would be on the hook for up to $1.2 million, if Sherman can’t play in 2019 due to a 2018 injury, but that’s a protection baked in to the CBA.)
Injury guarantees that vest at a later date are very rare, at best. What’s the point of injury protection if a player must carry injury risk before getting the protection? Sherman can brag all he wants about studying past contracts (he said he spent 12 hours looking at other deals), but that’s not nearly enough to understand nuances that competent agents have gleaned from hundreds if not thousands of hours of negotiation, study, analysis, debate, and everything else that goes into understanding how to get the best deals possible for their clients.
Consider this claim from Sherman: “It gives me the ability to control my destiny. The 49ers have skin in the game. I have skin in the game. In my former contract, no matter what I did this year, nothing would be guaranteed to me next year. I couldn’t feel secure in my contract. Now, if I play the way I know I’m capable of playing, I know I’m going to get paid.”
Again, nothing is guaranteed next year until the third day of the next league year. Even then, the 49ers can still dump Sherman if he’s healthy up until April 1, a common Paraag Marathe device aimed at giving the team multiple weeks to look elsewhere for help before committing to the players they currently have under contract.
The best way for Sherman to control his destiny would have been to do a one-year deal, or at worst to use making the Pro Bowl not as a way to trigger future guarantees but as a catalyst for voiding the final two years.
The 49ers are in an awkward spot on this. They need to make it look like they didn’t fleece Sherman, even if they know that they did. So they need to throw an attaboy or two in the direction of Sherman the agent for the work he did on behalf of Sherman the player.
Consider this quote from Marathe: “This is how much Richard studied this. We had a clause in a bunch of our contracts saying players got an incentive for making the Pro Bowl, even if they were medically excused from playing in the Pro Bowl. Richard said, ‘What if I’m voted to the Pro Bowl and I can’t go because we’re in the Super Bowl?’ We thought, He’s right. Great observation. We changed the wording.”
Hang on a second, Paraag. Do you mean to suggest that, if Sherman had made it to the Pro Bowl but was not able to play in the Pro Bowl because the team made it to the Super Bowl, the 49ers would have screwed him out of the benefit of making the Pro Bowl?
Sure. Right. Fine. So Sherman secured protection against something that never would have happened, and that makes it a good deal — a deal as good as anything any agent in the entire industry could have negotiated, according to the non-agent who negotiated it.