t’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Where do I even begin?
I guess you probably want to hear about how everything went down with the Seahawks, the negotiations with the 49ers and my new contract. And there’s a lot there. I kind of want to set the record straight on a couple of things, too.
So here’s how it all went down.
First of all, contrary to some reports, the Seahawks didn’t ask me to take a pay cut. There was no negotiation. When I met with them on March 7 to discuss my future, they informed me of their intent to release me. They didn’t know when they were going to do it, but it would be soon, they said.
Two days later I was in Las Vegas at the NFLPA meetings, sitting up on a stage in front of like 200 people in a giant hotel conference room, when my phone started blowing up. News of Seattle’s plans had gotten out.
A few of hours later, at about 1 p.m. Pacific, the Seahawks officially released me.
After that, things happened really fast.
At like 1:03 p.m. I got a call from the 49ers. They wanted me to fly to San Jose to have dinner with Kyle Shanahan. So I got my affairs in order — I had literally been a free agent for only a few minutes — and wrapped up some union business. Then I went back to my hotel with my fiancée, Ashley, and we grabbed our things and jumped on a flight.
At dinner, Kyle made one hell of a pitch. He has an incredible football mind — he’s just a great tactician — and we talked for hours about different schemes and about his vision for the team. He really impressed me.
Tony Avelar/AP Images
The following day, I met with the 49ers’ doctors because I’m obviously coming off of Achilles surgery, and they wanted to check me out. Then I went back to my hotel and hung out there for a couple of hours until John Lynch came and picked me up.
I sat with John and the 49ers’ cap strategist for about five hours, going back and forth on contract details.
One of the main reasons I had decided to represent myself in negotiations was because I knew it would be a big challenge, and I never shy away from a challenge. But also, I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else. So I thought, Who better than me?
But I wasn’t just going to fly by the seat of my pants. I downloaded past contracts from the NFLPA database and, with the union’s help, spent a lot of time studying the language and structure and nuances within contracts. And when all was said and done, and the 49ers and I had agreed to terms, there were a lot of things I got out of the deal that I wanted.
Under my previous contract with Seattle, I had no guaranteed money for 2018. In my new deal with the 49ers, I get a guaranteed $3 million signing bonus right off the bat and another $2 million if I pass a physical before November 11, which is the last day a team can bring a player off the PUP list. And in a sport where contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, money in hand is better than anything. So $5 million for just signing the contract and passing a physical is a big win for me.
But there was also a lot that the 49ers got that they wanted.
Outside of this past season, I’ve never missed a game in my NFL career. So on top of my signing bonus and my $2 million base salary for 2018, we put incentives in the contract that will pay me more depending on how much I play — on both a per-game basis and a percentage of defensive snaps — as well as whether or not I make the Pro Bowl or the All-Pro team. All in all, including my signing bonus, I could earn as much as $13 million for 2018.
It gets a little complicated after that. But basically, if I never get back to the Richard Sherman everybody has become accustomed to seeing on the field, the 49ers are protected. They won’t overpay for somebody who’s not on the field and who’s not playing at a high level.
And if I do get back to that level — which I fully intend to do — then I’ll be compensated accordingly.
Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune
When John Schneider told me that Seattle was going to release me, he asked me to bring any contract offer I got from another team back to him so that the Seahawks could have an opportunity to match it. I told him I would. So when the 49ers and I struck a deal, I immediately stepped out of the room and called John.
I gave the Seahawks an opportunity to match.
Now, a lot of people are out there saying that the only reason I signed with the 49ers is because it means that I’ll get to play against the Seahawks twice a year. And I’ll be honest … that’s definitely a perk. I think whenever a team doesn’t want you, it’s your competitive instinct to want to stick it to them and prove them wrong.
But that wasn’t the only reason — there were a lot of factors.
The 49ers were the first team that called me, and they showed genuine interest. And I want to play someplace where I know I’m valued — where I know I’m wanted. So that was a big deal for me. They also made me an offer that other teams weren’t willing to match. The fact that it was a three-year deal was also important to me because I didn’t want to sign a one-year deal and find myself looking for a new contract — or a new team — again next year. I also get to go back to the Bay Area, which I’ve loved since my Stanford days, and it keeps me on the west coast, which is where my family wants to be.
Do I understand why some Seahawks fans aren’t happy about it?
But just keep in mind: I didn’t choose to leave Seattle.
The Seahawks chose to let me go.
Sean Brown/CSM/AP Images
But just because I’m leaving Seattle doesn’t mean I’m … leaving Seattle. There may be very little loyalty in football, as I’ve learned, but Seattle is still where my kids will continue to go to school. It’s where I met Ashley. It’s where her parents live. It’s where we own a home that we don’t plan on selling. It’s where I’m going to continue to work with the kids in the surrounding communities the way I always have.
Shoot, I own a Wingstop in Seattle. And I highly doubt people there are gonna stop eating wings just because I don’t play football there anymore.
So yes, I understand why some fans don’t like the idea of me in a 49ers uniform. But I still spent seven incredible years in Seattle — the Pro Bowls, the Super Bowls, the L.O.B. … all that stuff still happened, right?
It’s just amazing to me how quickly people forget.
I’m very appreciative of — and humbled by — all the 12s who have shown me support over the last couple of weeks. Throughout my time in Seattle, you guys have been nothing short of amazing. I’ll always have love for the 12s.
But this whole process has definitely made me more aware of the hate and hypocrisy that’s out there.
You got fans calling me a traitor and burning my jersey when they probably know that if they got fired from their job tomorrow, and a competitor offered them more money, they’d take it in a heartbeat.
You got people out there running their mouths and bashing me for having the audacity to think I’m qualified to negotiate my own contract — like, Who do I think I am?
Well, I’m the one looking out for myself and my family.
Agents negotiate bad deals all the time. And while I don’t think every player should negotiate his own contract — it’s not for everybody — I felt I was up to the task. And whether you think it’s a good deal or a bad deal right now, the incentives give me the potential to make it a great deal over the length of the contract.
So talk to me in three years.
Ryan Kang/AP Images
When I was walking off the field last November with a torn Achilles, it never even crossed my mind that it might be the last time I walked off the field in a Seahawks uniform.
But I hope Seahawks fans remember that image.
I hope they look back on my seven years there and understand that I gave everything I had to that franchise. I played through an elbow injury … a wrist injury … an MCL … and more sprains and strains than I can even count. And it wasn’t just me — a lot of guys did. We played for each other. That’s one of the things that made us such a special group.
And before I tore it, I had been dealing with that Achilles for a while. I knew it was gonna go at some point, but I kept on playing because the other guys in the locker room were counting on me.
Seven years and I didn’t miss a game until my Achilles finally went.
And this is what I get.
At the first sign of adversity … they let me go.
But I understand. This is a business. And the Seahawks decided that the best thing for their franchise was to show me the door.
Well, I disagree.
I have no regrets about my time in Seattle — only great memories of incredible fans, and of teammates who will be my brothers for life. I know I wasn’t always perfect, but whatever mistakes I may have made, I made because I was trying to be the best player and the best teammate I could possibly be — and because, more than anything, I wanted to win. I worked with some incredible people in Seattle. My relationship with Pete goes all the way back to when he recruited me in high school, and I’ll always be grateful to John Schneider and everyone in the Seahawks organization for taking a chance on a kid that most people had overlooked.
And now, as I start this new chapter, I’m looking forward to doing great things in San Francisco and continuing to play at the level I’m accustomed to.
I’ll get there, too. My rehab has been going phenomenally well, and I think that I’m going to come back better than ever. Realistically, I’m on pace to be back on the field doing drills by June, and there’s no doubt that I’ll be ready to play come Week 1. That’s not even a question.
So to my Seahawks teammates, the organization and, of course, the 12s … thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family, and I’ll always be proud to call Seattle home.
To the 49ers and the fans in the Bay Area, I’m excited to be back and I can’t wait to start something special with you.
And to anybody who wants to criticize me for the three-year deal I negotiated that’s full of incentives … come back and talk to me in three years.