Tomase: Breaking down the latest controversy to hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
by: John Tomase on Thu, 04/06/2017 - 2:40pm
But here's a question: Why the hell not?
With Malcolm Butler in limbo and Stephon Gilmore being paid like a shutdown corner one year after not really playing like one, the Patriots have every incentive to inquire on Sherman, who's that incredibly rare breed of showman – his actions back up his words, and then some.
The loquacious Stanford grad isn't shy around a microphone, a situation the Patriots managed masterfully with tight end Martellus Bennett last year. The notion that the Pats won't sign someone outspoken has been disproved time and again, from Randy Moss to Aqib Talib to Martysaurus Rex. The Patriots Way actually leaves a little bit of room for personality (GRONK!), as long as it's accompanied by performance.
And in that regard, Sherman's as good as they get.
The 29-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and one-time conference defensive player of the year. He's a legit shutdown corner and contrary to popular belief, he's physically imposing. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he's got the size, speed, and quickness to match up with any receiver, and even though he generally plays the left side in Seattle's system, he has shown an ability to shadow top wideouts when needed. He's extremely physical and he'd have no problem exhibiting his versatility in New England.
He represents the perfect Plan B if the Patriots lose Butler to a sign-and-trade with the Saints or fear they must ship him elsewhere before he takes a page from the Jamie Collins malcontent handbook. The two DBs could even conceivably be swapped for each other, with a draft pick also leaving New England.
Of the three corners in this discussion – Sherman, Butler, Gilmore – Sherman is easily the most talented. Gilmore rated only 61st on Pro Football Focus's list of corners in 2016, down significantly from his No. 14 rating in 2015. Butler, conversely, graded out as the No. 25 overall player in the NFL and their first team All-Pro. NFL analyst Ike Taylor, a former Steelers corner, named Sherman the best in the game in his 2016 year-end rankings, though others noted a slippage in play, particularly changing direction, that might've been due to an undisclosed MCL injury.
With the April 21 deadline looming for Butler to strike a restricted free agent deal with another team or sign his $3.91 million tender and return to the Patriots, this situation will be resolved shortly. If the Pats can retain Butler and are convinced his head will remain screwed on straight, then they've got no issues. Butler and Gilmore are their corners, and that's almost certainly an upgrade on the Butler-Logan Ryan pairing of a year ago.
But if Butler's gone, they need to do better than Eric Rowe or Justin Coleman opposite Gilmore, and that's where Sherman enters the picture.
The Seahawks have made it clear he's available, apparently because of the roughly $11 million he's due in each of the next two seasons. That's short money for a corner of his skills, but the Seahawks are convinced that safety Earl Thomas is more important to their cover-3 scheme.
The Patriots win Super Bowls with elite corners. They did so with Darrelle Revis in 2014, and then again last year with Butler. They get in trouble when they're weak on the outside, and even with a stronger second half last year, Gilmore's play still doesn't scream lockdown defender.
Sherman's does. The fact that he likes to talk and has had some uncomplimentary words for the Patriots over the years – "You mad, bro?" springs to mind – shouldn't stop the team from trying to improve. If the Pats can bring in Adrian Peterson for a workout after he whipped his four-year-old son, Sherman's observation that Pats owner Robert Kraft and commissioner Roger Goodell are a little too cozy shouldn't disqualify him from upgrading an already formidable defense.
(It's also worth noting that Sherman gave us one of the most iconic images of Super Bowl 49, extending his hand to congratulate a kneeling Tom Brady in a display of sportsmanship after the Pats' miraculous last-second victory.)
Maybe Butler can even facilitate this deal by engaging the Seahawks directly to ascertain their interest in him as a free agent. Talk about a win-win. For all the justifiable concerns over losing Butler, they'd be eased by the arrival of Sherman as his replacement.
It makes all the sense in the world for the Patriots to pick up the phone and see what happens.