Richard Sherman joins up-and-coming San Francisco 49ers to go on other side of rivalry with Seattle Seahawks

Jay Asser 11/03/2018
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Richard Sherman will stay in the NFC West by moving from Seattle to San Francisco.

The dismantling of the Seattle Seahawks defence has been their rivals’ gain as the San Francisco 49ers added Richard Sherman in a high-profile signing to strengthen their secondary.

The shutdown cornerback will stay in the NFC West after inking a three-year deal with the 49ers worth up to $39 million, with a $5m signing bonus.

While it initially seems like San Francisco overpaid for a 29-year-old recovering from a ruptured Achilles, Sherman’s contract is laden with incentives to cover the 49ers if he doesn’t return to full health or is a shell of himself.

As if Sherman needs more motivation to come back strong, he’ll now have the opportunity to face his former side twice in the regular season. That may have played a significant role in his decision to not meet with any other team after being released by the Seahawks, as could have returning to the Bay Area where he played college football at Stanford.

Seattle decided to move on from Sherman to save $11m, with his release part of a host of changes on the defence that also included trading defensive end Michael Bennett.

While the Seahawks transition to a new era, the 49ers continue to build excitement around their franchise after closing out last season on a promising run with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Sherman will help fill arguably San Francisco’s biggest need with the secondary previously a major question mark.

Last season, the 49ers’ pass defence ranked 24th in the league in yards allowed per attempt with 7.2, 22nd in yards allowed per game with 235 and 24th in passer rating allowed with 93.9.

In Sherman, San Francisco bring in a cornerback who has the most interceptions (32) and passes defended (99) since entering the league in 2011. No player with 300-plus targets has allowed a lower completion percentage (47.4) or passer rating (50.9) over the span either.

When he was healthy, Sherman was essentially a one-man island on the left side of the Seahawks defence, often matching up and shutting down the opposing team’s best receiver on the outside.

His size – 6-foot-3, 195 pounds – allows him to be physical against bigger receivers and win jump-ball situations. So while he’s certainly athletic, Sherman isn’t fully reliant on his speed or quickness, which bodes well for his effectiveness post-Achilles injury.

Even after signing Sherman and extending Garoppolo this offseason, the 49ers have more than $50m in salary cap space to continue adding talent.

Though they’re not a finished product yet, San Francisco are set up to fight for the playoffs when they carry over a five-game winning streak into next season.

While the Los Angeles Rams, who are having an impressive offseason in their own right, will be the team to beat in the division, San Francisco have at least closed the gap between them and Seattle.

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New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees headlines our list of top 10 NFL free agents set to hit the open market

Jay Asser 11/03/2018
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It would be surprising to see Drew Brees anywhere other than New Orleans.

Player movement in the NFL is about to reach a frenzy with free agency kicking off this week.

The legal tampering period begins Monday, March 11, when teams are allowed to contact and open contract negotiations with players whose contracts are coming to an end.

Teams can’t officially sign players, however, until Wednesday, March 14, when the new league year gets under way at 16:00 ET (01:00 +1 UAE).

For players who will be restricted free agents, the deadline to sign offer sheets is April 20.

Though this year’s free agency class isn’t stacked with top-level talent, there are a number of high-impact players available, including two of the better quarterbacks in the league and plenty of cornerbacks.

Here’s our list of the top 10 free agents who will hit the market.

1. Drew Brees

Chances the Saints star quarterback leaves New Orleans are slim, but teams around the league can dream. If he were to show a willingness to move, Brees could turn a number of fringe teams into Super Bowl contenders. Even at the age of 39, he’s shown little signs of slowing down and is coming off a season in which he posted a passer rating of 103.9 and led the Saints to an 11-5 record.

2. Kirk Cousins

Whereas Brees would be more of a mercenary if he switched cities, Cousins has the chance to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come. It’s not often a 29-year-old quarterback in his prime becomes available on the open market, but that’s the case with Cousins, who is in line for a hefty payday.

3. Andrew Norwell

With Carolina unlikely to re-sign him, the offensive guard is set to break the bank in free agency. The 26-year-old has been a vital cog in the Panthers’ running game over the years and last season didn’t surrender a single sack or quarterback hit, according to Pro Football Focus, earning him first-team All-Pro honours.

4. Allen Robinson

The athletic wide receiver will be an interesting case in free agency after playing only game last year before tearing his ACL. But he’s only 24 and just two seasons ago lit the world on fire with 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Even if it’s not a gamble Jacksonville want to take, some team will be more than happy to dive in.

Robinson

5. Trumaine Johnson

With the Rams adding Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib in the offseason, Johnson’s days in Los Angeles are all but numbered. After playing on a franchise tag the past two years, the cornerback will finally have the chance to lock down a long-term deal, though his annual salary won’t be nearly the same.

6. Nate Solder

Solder’s not the same player he was earlier in his career, but he’s easily the top left tackle available and someone who will get paid. Last season, the 30-year-old veteran struggled initially, but found his footing as the year went on and was eventually rock solid in keeping Tom Brady clean en route to reaching the Super Bowl.

7. Kyle Fuller

Fuller could technically sign with any team, but Chicago will have the option to match whatever offer he inks because they’ve placed the transition tag on the young cornerback. That could potentially scare suitors away, but as a player who continues to get better, he would be a major steal.

Fuller

8. Case Keenum

Keenum made himself a lot of money this past season by taking the leap from journeyman quarterback to someone who can lead a team to the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota may prefer to keep him and try to rekindle the magic, but he’s going to draw interest from other teams in need of a quarterback.

9. Dion Lewis

Even though he’s not the typical feature back, Lewis’ value lies in his versatility and ability to play all three downs. It may feel like he’s been around for a while, but he’s only 27 and doesn’t have the same wear and tear on his tyres that many others at his position do. Run, catch, block – Lewis can do it all.

10. Sheldon Richardson

The Seahawks’ defence is breaking up and Richardson appears to also be departing after he wasn’t slapped with a franchise tag. When he’s at his best, the 27-year-old defensive tackle can both clog up the running game and provide interior pressure. But it’s been some time now since he’s been at the top of his game.

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Cleveland Browns' acquisitions of Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry signal franchise is done waiting

Jay Asser 10/03/2018
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Tyrod Taylor will get the chance to turn around the floundering Browns.

After years of losing and banking draft picks, the Cleveland Browns are done sitting on the sidelines and remaining patient.

Cleveland were aggressive in reshaping their roster by pulling off multiple trades on Friday, using their extensive draft capital and salary cap space to add proven commodities who should immediately improve them from the team which won all of one game in the past two seasons combined.

With their first move, the Browns acquired wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-rounder.

That was followed by scooping up quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills for their 2018 third-rounder, which will be the first pick in the round at 65 overall.

The trade for Taylor made incumbent Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer expandable, so the Browns moved the player they tabbed with last year’s second-round pick for Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall. The teams also swapped 2018 fourth and fifth-rounders in the exchange.

11 03 2018 NFL

There’s a reason why these trades feel divergent to the approach Cleveland were committed to over the past few years, which was the NFL’s version of the Philadelphia 76ers’ ‘Trust the Process’.

The main force behind the Browns’ rebuild, Sashi Brown, was fired from the general manager position this past December, with John Dorsey hired in his place.

After inheriting a treasure trove of draft picks – including the first and fourth overall selections this year – and enough cap space to essentially have a clean slate, Dorsey made a statement with Friday’s trades that it’s time the franchise feels a greater sense of urgency.

Pouncing on Taylor is the clearest indication Cleveland want to start winning more games immediately.

The duel-threat quarterback may not have been loved by the Bills, but he’s proven during his time as a starter that he’s, at worst, an average player at the position – a massive step up from what the Browns have fielded in the past.

Even putting aside his ability as a runner, Taylor provides much more ball security having thrown just 16 interceptions over the past three seasons combined. For comparison, Kizer tossed 22 picks last year alone.

Taylor should also have a much better receiving corps to work with than the one he was throwing to in Buffalo. Between Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Landry, Duke Johnson and David Njoku, Taylor will have weapons that he can utilise all over the field.

It’s possible Taylor will only be around for a season as his contract, which comes with a $16 million cap hit in 2018, is set to expire next year. But it’s hard to imagine him performing so well that the Browns can’t ink him to a relatively reasonable extension.

By adding Taylor, Cleveland also give themselves an out in this year’s draft if they’re not in love with any of the quarterback prospects. Taylor will almost surely serve as the bridge to the Browns’ quarterback of the future, whoever that ends up being, but his presence buys the franchise leeway and time to figure out who that cornerstone will be.

That could allow them to snag running back Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick and then grab another non-quarterback at number four, or dangle that selection in front of quarterback-hungry teams.

Landry, meanwhile, will give Taylor a possession receiver to lean on as a compliment to the downfield threat of Josh Gordon.

He may not have the ceiling that other receivers around his price tag do – $16m under the franchise tag for 2018 – but 400 receptions over his first four seasons proves he can produce.

Of course, Cleveland had to give up significant assets for both Landry and Taylor, and it’s fair to wonder if they overpaid considering they could have kept their power dry and chased talent in free agency.

But when you have the reputation the Browns do and are so far from contention, it’s worth paying a premium to secure players like Taylor and Landry, instead of leaving that up to chance in the open market.

Time will tell if Cleveland swung too wildly or too soon from a patient approach to an aggressive one, but what’s obvious is that the change is here.

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