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Richard Sherman’s monster contract epitomizes the unpredictability of the NFL

Three years ago, Richard Sherman was one week into his NFL career. He was a fifth-round pick who had only played cornerback one season at Stanford and was expected to be nothing more than a depth guy in Seattle.

Some snippets from a breakdown in the News Tribune:

Sherman has the ball skills to be a solid cover corner, but he’s got some work to do better transitioning out of his back pedal, anticipating routes and breaking on the ball.

[…]

I think there are legitimate concerns about Sherman’s ability to play physical, along with his overall defensive anticipation after having played only one year at cornerback in college.

[…]

I think he’s still a work in progress and will be in a dog fight for a spot on the final, 53-man roster, particularly without the benefit of an offseason program learning the tricks of the trade from veterans like Marcus Trufant. But he could be a solid contributor on special teams for Seattle as a gunner on punt and punt returns.

Sherman went on to intercept four passes and make 10 starts that year, gaining a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. He was an All-Pro the next season and is now a Super Bowl hero with the largest contract among players at his position.

On Wednesday, the Seahawks made his five-year, $57.4 million contract (with $40 million guaranteed) official. That despite the fact the team had little reason to cave so early. Sherman had one year left on his four-year, $2.2 million rookie deal, and the franchise tag was there in case, but Sherman has become so incredibly valuable over the last three years that the team didn’t want to mess around.

How can a player who raised so many concerns and had so many perceived weaknesses coming into the league become so valuable this quickly? Sherman was projected by many to be an undrafted free agent in 2011, and now he’s the highest-paid and most-respected corner in the game at the age of 26.

The NFL, that’s how. It’s the same reason former 199th overall pick Tom Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Same reason undrafted free agent Tony Romo is one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game. Same reason sixth-round pick Alfred Morris and undrafted free agent Arian Foster are two of the league’s most dominant running backs.

This league makes it possible for guys like Sherman, Brady, Romo, Morris, Foster, Cortland Finnegan, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, Jared Allen, Geno Atkins, James Harrison and Antonio Gates to rise from nothing and become superstars overnight.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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