Richard Sherman and Tom Brady are quite used to sharing a football field. They’ve done it many times throughout their careers. In the past, though, they’ve always met as rivals. For the next year, they’ll be stepping onto it together as teammates. In a move that’s caused mild surprise across the NFL, Sherman has signed a one year contract in Tampa Bay. In typical style, the experienced cornerback broke the news himself on his podcast. The deal is expected to earn the football veteran £2.25m, with half a million dollars of that sum guaranteed.
Sherman has been without a team since his departure from the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2020 season. In truth, he was barely with the 49ers in 2020 anyway. A calf injury meant that he missed the beginning of the season, and he wasn’t activated until the end of November. He’d play just five games between then and the season’s end – a far cry from the fifteen he managed the season before and the fourteen he played the season prior to that.
The injuries, the stats, and Sherman’s age suggest that the Buccaneers are taking quite a gamble by bringing him in. To use a metaphor, it’s a two-million-dollar-plus spin of the reels on an online slots game with your fingers crossed that it’s all going to work out, but Sherman won’t care about that. He’s more interested in getting his career back on track after his legal issues this past summer and proving that he’s still got something in the tank. The outspoken player probably won’t mind gambling comparisons – we suspect that he’s played the Gridiron Glory online slots game before now – because he’ll expect to end up a winner. On top of that, he’s still in the first flush of youth compared to Brady. The odds you’d have got ten years ago on Brady playing for the Buccaneers in 2021 would have been longer than anything an online slots game would be able to offer you.
During his podcast, Sherman declared that he’d “had enough conversations” with interested parties and come to a decision that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the best fit for him. He noted that he expects to get negative tweets on social media from fans who expected him to go to their team, to whom he apologised. Initial reactions on social media suggest that he’s not going to get quite as much hate as he might have expected, but the majority of Buccaneers fans have been welcoming. They knew they had a weakness in the cornerback position, and they’re glad it’s been resolved. So long as Sherman stays fit, he should be able to make a solid positive contribution to their season. Nobody will ever know for sure which other teams might have been interested in his signatures, but there had been strong rumours that the 49ers wanted to bring him back, and the Seattle Seahawks may have wanted to renew their acquaintance with him, too. The Carolina Panthers might have been another option, although probably not one that Sherman seriously considered.
The Sherman that the Bucs are getting ought to be a better, fitter version than the one that left San Francisco. He claims to have lost fifteen pounds during the offseason, and he certainly looks leaner than he did a few months ago. He looks more like the Pro Bowler of 2019 than the ageing player who struggled throughout 2020, and from what he said on his podcast and also at his introductory press conference, he seems motivated. Brady and Sherman always seemed to enjoy facing each other on the field, so it makes sense that Brady played an active role in recruiting him. Sherman says that the NFL legend telephoned him personally and told him that if he didn’t come to the Bucs, Brady would make him regret the decision. We’re sure the advice was given in jest, but it had the desired effect.
As for Brady, anybody who’s expecting him to retire at the end of the 2021 season is likely to be disappointed. They might even be just as disappointed if they’re expecting him to retire at the end of the 2022 season. That’s how far Brady’s current contract takes him, but the 44-year-old isn’t sure he’ll be ready to call it a day by then. His performances on the field continue to justify the Bucs investment in him, and there’s no reason for him to step away when he’s still such an enormous presence in the game. Brady has broken dozens of records with his accolades and his longevity, but there are still more to break – and it sounds like he wants to stick around for long enough to break them.
Brady recently spoke to the Wall Street Journal Magazine in a promotional piece to promote his new line of clothing. He was asked about retirement – because every journalist who ever speaks to him asks that question – and had interesting things to say in response. He said “maybe another year after that” in reference to the 2022 expiry date before following the statement up with “maybe it’s two, although I’ll have to speak to my family.” If he follows up on that intention, it will take him to the age of 47. That sounds ridiculous, but the idea of Brady starting games at 44 sounded ridiculous at one stage, too. There’s a video on the Bucs website in which he tells teammate and friend Rob Gronkowski that he feels like he can play until he’s 50, but he’s been quick to say that just because he feels like he can doesn’t mean that he will. Amazing as he is, his body will begin to feel and demonstrate the signs of ageing eventually. The smart money says it happens within the next three years – but the smart money has been wrong before.
The acquisition of Richard Sherman strengthens the Bucs as they attempt to hold on to their Superbowl, but will that be enough to take them to the promised land again? Retaining the trophy is a difficult job for any team, but they stand a better chance with Sherman than they did without him.