19th January 2014. Shortly after the Seattle Seahawks defeated their division rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game Richard Sherman went on a rant that will be remembered forever.
[Sherman:] “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you EVER talk about me.”
[Erin Andrews:] “Who was talking about you?”
[Sherman:] “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best. Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. L-O-B.”
Since then the fortunes for both franchises have been somewhat different. The Seahawks would win the Super Bowl that year, made the Super Bowl the following year but lost (a game they would have won had they just ran the ball from the 1 yard line) and made the divisional round of the playoffs in 2015 and 2016 before narrowly missing out this year. The 49ers on the other hand have not made the playoffs since. In fact they haven’t even had a winning season since, finishing bottom of the NFC West the last 3 years.
Last night the aforementioned Sherman announced he was signing a 3 year, $39 million deal with the 49ers after being cut by the Seahawks in a money saving move. He is the second major free agent to sign with San Fran after Jimmy Garoppolo’s 5 year, $137.5 million deal earlier in the offseason. The 49ers will still have around $50 million available cap space this year even after both of those major coups so are set to continue building around Garoppolo and his 5-0 record as a starter for the team. They also have the 9th overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Seahawks still have Russell Wilson at quarterback so they will not go down without a fight. And as long as they are playing at CenturyLink Field they should benefit from one of the loudest crowds in the league. But the Legion of Boom has been dismantled with the release of Sherman and the trade of star defensive end Micheal Bennett, they have not extended the contract of Jimmy Graham who is one of the better receiving tight ends in the league, their offensive line is a shambles and with only around $13 million in available cap space it will be hard for them to find surefire improvements in free agency.
The Bay Area is not the only place vying to become the dominant force of the NFC West. There have been a number of reports and articles focusing on the 49ers, but let’s not forget last seasons division winners the LA Rams have only gotten better with the addition of 3 star cornerbacks in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Sam Shields, while Jared Goff will have another years experience under his belt and Todd Gurley should continue to be one of the best running backs in the league.
I can’t tell you which team will come out on top next year, but one thing I can guarantee is the NFC West will be one of the most exciting divisions in the league.