It's been nearly four years since cornerback Richard Sherman played his last game in a Seahawks uniform, collapsing to the University of Phoenix Stadium turf with a torn Achilles in an eventual 22-16 victory for Seattle. Up to that point, Sherman had been playing through lingering heel pain before it finally gave way. At that very moment, as safety Kam Chancellor suffered an injury with even worse, career-ending ramifications, the proverbial torch was passed on from the legends of the 'Legion of Boom' to the first pieces in what Seattle's defense would eventually become over the past three seasons.
At the center of the changing of guard was then rookie Shaquill Griffin, a third-round corner out of the University of Central Florida who began the 2017 season faced with the tough task of playing opposite a future Hall of Famer in Sherman. Suddenly, Griffin was now being relied upon to replace him on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
While the season ended with the Seahawks missing the playoffs for the first - and only - time in the Russell Wilson era, Griffin answered the call to the best of his ability. As Sherman's time in Seattle came to an expected end, Griffin became a constant on an ever-changing, rebuilt defense.
Although it obviously paled in comparison to the group helmed by Sherman and company in the early-to-mid 2010s, the 2018 Seattle defense put in a solid year's work given the circumstances. Griffin, however, was inconsistent at best, most notably struggling in the Seahawks' wild-card loss to the Cowboys while nursing an ankle injury.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Sherman worked his way back from his career-altering injury in a fine manner. Though his 2018 campaign didn't yield the numbers the football world has grown accustomed to seeing from him, it was a good stepping stone for what would eventually come. A year later, as the 49ers steamrolled the NFC to the first overall seed and a Super Bowl appearance, Sherman returned to form with Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors awaiting him at the finish line.
Sherman, of course, was unable to fulfill his Pro Bowl duties as a member of one of the two teams playing in Super Bowl LIV the following week. His replacement? None other than his heir apparent in Seattle, Griffin.
Now in his third NFL season, Griffin had put up the best year of his career to date in 2019. Though he didn't force a turnover in the pass game, he limited opponents to a 96.3 passer rating and earned a coverage grade of 76.0 from Pro Football Focus. It seemed as if he had finally turned the corner heading into the last year of his rookie contract.
As Griffin went on to perform a decent encore in 2020, Sherman spent the majority of the unprecedented season on injured reserve with a calf strain. This wound up being just one of many injuries to a 49ers defense that dominated its way to an NFC title the previous year, leading to a disappointing season overall—one that Sherman made it well-known would be his last in the 'Bay Area.'
As if their careers weren't already intertwined enough, both Griffin and Sherman hit free agency at the same time this March. For Griffin, his first time on the market; for Sherman, his second. But while the former quickly found a new home on a lucrative contract with the Jaguars in the first week of free agency, the latter remains unsigned for the time being.
Griffin's departure left a pretty significant hole in the Seahawks' cornerback ranks, but they were quick to find a potential replacement in Ahkello Witherspoon—a former teammate of Sherman's in San Francisco. Witherspoon isn't the only former 49ers cornerback on the roster, however, with D.J. Reed - the 2020 breakout who's set to start at right cornerback for the Seahawks this fall - also on the depth chart.
While one could assume they're done at the position - at least in free agency - with Witherspoon and Reed in tow, along with solid depth behind them in Ugo Amadi and Tre Flowers, the Seahawks are still very much involved in the cornerback market. Free agent Quinton Dunbar, who spent 2020 with Seattle, has outright said on social media that he and the team have remained in contact on a possible reunion. Reports have also indicated they're not opposed to a reunion with Sherman, a possibility the 33-year old claims to be 'open' to.
If both sides are able to squash their differences and they can agree on a reasonable price point, it might be just the thing both Sherman and the Seahawks need right now. Sherman is inching closer to the end of his storied career and wants to win another ring, falling one victory short of such an accomplishment in his last two best attempts. Seattle, looking to piece together a roster capable of competing for a championship, could use some stability at the cornerback position despite the amount of upside it carries with the duo of Witherspoon and Reed.
If a deal is struck, what once was a legacy intended for Griffin to carry would revert back to the person who started it all, at least for a brief period in time. Sherman would have one last shot to help rewrite history and return to glory in the city that made him a superstar. It's a potential fairytale ending all parties involved deserve a chance to experience, from the organization, to the fans, and most importantly Sherman himself.
Whether it happens or not remains to be seen. Sherman won't come cheap and the Seahawks are limited from a financial standpoint. He's also had interest from other teams, including the Saints. But the longer the offseason goes with the All-Pro out on the market, the more a reunion makes sense if Seattle doesn't identify a cheaper alternative.