The Buccaneers have been in search of additional help at outside corner pretty much all offseason long. This need became even more apparent after the recent injury to Sean Murphy-Bunting, who is the Bucs' outside corner when the team is in base defense.
Finding reliable outside help in the NFL is hard at this time of year. In fact, it's almost impossible.
But as it turns out, the Bucs may find some help in the form of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Bucs reached out to the former Seahawk and 49er last week after they lost SMB to a dislocated elbow. As it stands, there is no exact timetable for SMB's return.
Adding Sherman to the mix would be an intriguing move and one that should help boost the Bucs secondary, but what would it take to get a deal done and should the Bucs even go after the veteran corner at the end of the day?
Let's break it down and see why or why not the Bucs should sign Sherman.
What will Sherman cost?
Per Over The Cap, Sherman made $8 million in base salary in 2020 and he was on the 49ers' books as a $14 million cap hit. Sherman is his own agent, which means he ultimately decides his worth at the end of the day.
Pelissero's report specifically mentions that money is/will be a factor in the three-time All-Pro's decision. Per OTC, the Bucs are currently dead-last in cap room with a little over $140k. Spotrac is a little more generous. They have the Bucs with a little over $730k in cap room, which is the fourth-lowest amount of cap space.
I think it's safe to assume that Sherman is going to cost a whole lot more than those two amounts. However, this past offseason saw the Bucs re-sign their free agents to deals containing voidable years in order to spread the contract total around. It's totally plausible the Bucs repeat that strategy with Sherman.
But the Bucs will still have to make some type of move in order to get to the veteran minimum, which is $1.075 million for a player with Sherman's experience.
No one knows for sure how much he will cost, but it's easy to imagine a scenario where Sherman takes a discount because a) he has an excellent chance to win another ring and b) we've seen plenty of veterans take discounts in order to play with Tom Brady.
It won't be a straight-up, cut-and-dry signing, but if there's a front office that can pull this off, it's the Bucs' front office.
How healthy is he?
Sherman has had it pretty rough when it comes to his health over the last three years. He ruptured his right Achilles tendon in 2017 and then had minor offseason surgery on his left Achilles prior to the start of the 2018 season. 2019 was injury-free and one of the best years of Sherman's career, but a calf injury limited him to just five games in 2020.
Injuries are such as life in the NFL, but the impact of serious injuries such as these are exponentiated when you're dealing with a player like Sherman, who is 33-years-old.
But Sherman has reportedly dropped 15-pounds, which puts him at his Seattle playing weight. Losing that much weight will go along way in helping his recent ailments.
There's also the question of game shape and how long it will take him to actually get his body prepared for a football game. There's little doubt that Sherman isn't keeping in shape, but it's a completely different animal once you put on the pads and get to work in-between the hashmarks. Just ask Rob Gronkowski.
Sherman's health will go a long way in determining not only how much he makes in 2020, but whether or not a team even chooses to sign him.
But there's another off-field issue that will likely determine where Sherman ends up...
What's going on with his legal situation?
Sherman was arrested back in July for what was initially deemed a domestic disturbance. He was hit with five misdemeanors and has entered a not guilty plea for each one.
Sherman is currently undergoing therapy after he pledged to seek help, but the NFL is still reviewing the situation, so the league could discipline him down the road. Additionally, one of Sherman's charges is a DUI. The NFL's substance-abuse policy calls for a baseline three-game suspension without pay for a first-time DUI arrest. However, the NFL doesn't hand down punishment until the legal process is complete, so Sherman could avoid suspension at the end of the day.
But no one knows what will happen with this until it's too late, which likely plays a big factor in whether or not a team decides to sign Sherman.
Where would Sherman fit in the Bucs defense?
Finally, we get to discuss where Sherman would fit in on the Bucs defense!
Tampa Bay's current crop of corners are Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Ross Cockrell, and Dee Delaney. Davis is primarily a perimeter player, although he can match up with assignments on the inside from time-to-time. Dean is an outside guy and so is Delaney. Cockrell has played on the outside before, but he's essentially the Bucs backup nickelback.
It's clear that an injury to Dean or Davis -Davis is currently dealing with a slight hamstring issue, by the way- would put the secondary in a rather perilous spot. Having an experienced vet like Sherman on the roster would be very beneficial.
Sherman is most effective in zone coverage. Most think of Todd Bowles' secondary as a physical, press-type of scheme, but it's the opposite, actually. Per Sports Info Solutions, Bowles deployed zone coverage at the seventh-highest rate in 2020 and at the 14th-highest rate in Week 1 against the Cowboys. The Bucs do man up on their assignments, but not as near as often as most think.
He's also a sound tackler, which is something the Bucs consistently have issues with in the secondary. Per Pro Football Focus, Davis and Cockrell are currently in the top-20 when it comes to missed tackles, with Davis sitting at the second-highest rate among all corners with at least 28 snaps. Both SMB and Davis finished in the top-42 highest missed tackle rates in 2020 among corners with at least 453 snaps, as well.
Sherman was playing rather well before his calf injury in 2020. Quarterbacks completed just 50% of their passes and averaged a 66.7 rating when targeting Sherman in zone coverage, per PFF. He also had the second-fewest snaps per target rate, which indicates that his coverage is still sticky and quarterbacks still fear him. Overall, he would be a pretty good fit for this defense.
Will Sherman end up a Buc? There are quite a few hurdles to clear before he and the Bucs join forces and some of said hurdles are rather large. Sherman isn't your typical street free agent, either. He's a decorated veteran who has no issue waiting and choosing the right place to play.
Only time will tell how Sherman's story plays out. But until then, the Bucs just need to focus on what's ahead - which is the Atlanta Falcons.