By Matt Barrows | The Sacramento Bee
SANTA CLARA — The 49ers on Saturday turned a long-time enemy into a current teammate when they agreed to a three-year deal with cornerback Richard Sherman.
The former Seahawks cornerback became a free agent on Friday when the Seahawks cut him, then had dinner later that night with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
A more formal meeting was held Saturday when Sherman, 29, also was given a physical. His streak of 105 consecutive games, which began his rookie season in 2011, ended in November with a right Achilles tear. He also had a procedure to address bone spurs on his opposite Achilles heel, and according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, has been in a walking boot recently.
Sherman has said he expects to begin running at full speed some time next month and should be full go by training camp. San Francisco’s deal signals that team doctors agreed there would be no lingering issues from the injuries.
Multiple reports said the deal was worth as much as $39 million with $5 million guaranteed.
The 49ers made cornerback their top priority this offseason. Only Ahkello Witherspoon, a 2017 third-round draft pick, had any measure of experience at the position heading into the new season. Sherman’s addition mean’s they will not be forced to use their first-round draft pick next month on the position.
More than that, it gives them the prototypical, tall, long-armed press cornerback that coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense requires. Saleh is familiar with Sherman after having served as an assistant in Seattle during that defense’s heyday. Sherman will find two other familiar faces in the locker room: former Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith and former defensive end Cassius Marsh.
Sherman became an arch villain to 49ers fans as the rowdy and outspoken Seahawks wrestled control of the NFC West away from the powerful 49ers five years ago. The brash cornerback famously batted a pass from receiver Michael Crabtree on a last-minute touchdown attempt in the 2013 NFC championship game, triumphantly ate a turkey leg at Levi’s Field after a Thanksgiving win against the 49ers and parried with head coach Jim Harbaugh, his former coach at Stanford.
After the pass break up to Crabtree, he offered the receiver a mock handshake and then flashed a “choking” gesture to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In that way, he promises to add a heavy dose of spice to a rivalry that had gone bland in recent years as the 49ers, who haven’t beaten Seattle since 2013, quickly lost power.
With stalwarts like Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett heading elsewhere, the Seahawks now appear in the midst of a restructuring while the 49ers, winners of their last five games last season, are ascendant.
Furthermore, there have long been reports of resentment between Seattle’s defensive players — Sherman in particular — and quarterback Russell Wilson, who takes on a more pivotal role with every major departure from the Seahawks defense.