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What does the Carolina Panthers’ interest in Richard Sherman say about 2021?

Is a celebrated, controversial, veteran cornerback the right fit for these Panthers

Buffalo Bills v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have taken a number of hits in the secondary this young season. First round pick Jaycee Horn will miss most to all of the rest of the season after breaking multiple bones in his foot last week against the Houston Texans. Safety Juston Burris strained a muscle in his groin in that same game. Week One saw Myles Hartfield, a jack-of-all-trades defensive back, exit with a wrist injury that was then projected to keep him out 8-12 weeks. Clearly, they have a need. We also have reports that the team has reached out to Sherman.

Richard Sherman, meanwhile, is a thirty-three year old corner who has more of his career behind him than ahead of him. He is also coming off a summer encounter with police that scared many teams away from any contact with him this year. This interview between Sherman and Doug Farrar of USA Today’s Touchdown Wire goes in depth on both where Sherman believes he is now after his summer incident and breaks down some of his most recent film.

The short of his athletic present is that Sherman looks good to go for playing this season. He would be an upgrade over young players Keith Taylor and Stantley Thomas-Oliver. If the Panthers want to address their need with a veteran presence then Sherman is probably the best option on the market. He certainly has a better history of tackling in the open field than say, Tre Boston.

The remaining question is ‘how do the Panthers feel about whatever happened this summer?’ That’s not a question we can answer unless the Panthers do sign him, but we can make some assumptions. General Manager Scott Fitterer and Assistant GM Dan Morgan have a long history with Sherman from their shared time in Seattle. I’d bet they would not have reached out at all if they weren’t comfortable with who they know Sherman to be. The interest is most likely real.

The Panthers are near the top of the league in cap space, so signing Sherman wouldn’t be a detriment to their current plans. However, their current $22M in space was clearly not intended for their immediate plans. That amount of many at this point in the season was probably intended to be rolled over for contracts next year. Dipping into that pool now, if they do so, would suggest that they consider themselves contenders this year. At 3-0, with easily the best statistical defense in the NFL, it’s easy to see where that consideration comes from.

No matter which way you cut it, interest in Sherman or any other veteran says that this team has faith in itself. They have already worked out mutliple veteran running backs after the Christian McCaffrey injury, as well. That’s exciting. They also, for all of their successes, have clear weaknesses outside of the secondary. They are thin at linebacker and one more injury away from disaster along the offensive line. If they sign Sherman, look for that to be just the first move they make to shore up their chances in 2021.