After Injuries and a Call From Tom Brady, Richard Sherman Joins the Buccaneers

Richard Sherman, who is mired in legal trouble stemming from an arrest this summer and five misdemeanor charges, including two for domestic violence, has agreed to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, becoming the latest high-profile free agent to join quarterback Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions.

One of the best known cornerbacks in the league, Sherman, 33, announced his arrival in Tampa on his podcast Wednesday morning. The team confirmed the news by posting to Twitter a photo of Sherman signing his contract, reported by the NFL Network to be worth $2.25 million, only $500,000 of it guaranteed. Coach Bruce Arians said Sherman would not play this weekend against the Patriots unless there were injuries to other cornerbacks.

“I finally had enough conversations and came to a decision that I’m going to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” Sherman said, adding a shout. “All the craziness and then all the hate and all the tweets, and then everybody’s mad because I didn’t go to their team. I’m sorry.”

Whatever his contributions on the field may be, Sherman’s arrival in Tampa raises fresh questions about the N.F.L.’s handling of players accused of domestic abuse and other violent crimes and about Brady’s role in lobbying the Buccaneers to sign two free agents, Sherman and receiver Antonio Brown, while they were in the midst of criminal and league investigations.

In 2020, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brown for eight games while the league investigated his role in a reported assault on a moving company employee, an allegation that emerged after Brown was accused of sending threatening texts to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct. At the time of the suspension, Brown was an unrestricted free agent.

Brady, who played with Brown briefly in New England in 2019, courted the All-Pro receiver to Tampa before he finished his suspension at the end of Week 8 last season. Brady invited Brown to live in his home in Tampa before Brown signed with the Buccaneers at the end of October 2020.

Concurrently, Brown also faced a lawsuit that claimed he sexually assaulted his former trainer in 2017 and 2018. Brown and his accuser reached a settlement in April this year. He pleaded no contest to battery in the moving company dispute and his probation in the case was terminated in June ahead of schedule.

Sherman was arrested this summer after police said he tried to break down the door to his in-laws’ house, several hours after a dispute between him and his wife, Ashley, who eventually tried to remove their children from the couple’s home, according to audio recordings of 9-1-1 calls. Sherman has pleaded not guilty to five misdemeanors, including two counts of domestic violence and one of driving under the influence. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

Sherman said on his podcast that Brady had reached out in hopes of bringing him to Tampa.

“He reached out initially and just checked to see if I was in shape,” Sherman said. “He and I have had a relationship over the years. He’s a great guy. Very encouraging.”

Sherman’s arrival comes just days before the Buccaneers travel to Foxborough, Mass., to play the Patriots on Sunday in the widely anticipated face-off between Brady and the Patriots, their first meeting since Brady left New England as a free agent in the spring of 2020. He and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick won six Super Bowls in 20 years together, but their relationship deteriorated as they sought to determine Brady’s future with the team.

Brady and Sherman’s pairing comes in contrast to their past rivalry. Sherman, a three-time All-Pro, spent his first seven seasons in Seattle as a key to the defensive backfield known as the Legion of Boom for its hard-hitting style. After the Seahawks upset the Patriots in a 2012 regular season matchup where Sherman intercepted Brady, Sherman antagonized Brady after the game.

The pair faced off in Super Bowl XLIX after the 2014 season, when the Patriots beat the Seahawks, 28-24.

Sherman spent three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, where he played in just five games during the 2020 season because of injuries.

The Buccaneers, whose defense propelled them to a Super Bowl title last season, lost cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting to injury. Cornerback Jamel Dean’s status is also questionable. After three games this season, Tampa Bay’s pass defense ranks last in the N.F.L.

Brady left New England after two decades reportedly because he wanted more input into the composition of the Patriots. Since joining Tampa Bay in March last year, Brady helped lure tight end and former teammate Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, and persuaded the team that Brown was worth the gamble. Now the Buccaneers and the rest of the N.F.L. will get to see if Sherman was worth the effort as well.

Kevin Draper contributed reporting.

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