By signing CB Richard Sherman to a three-year, $39M deal, the 49ers have "decided that the window is open, and they're not about to hesitate when intriguing opportunities are in front of them," according to Tim Kawakami of THE ATHLETIC. It is yet to be seen how the rest of free agency "will all play out," starting today when negotiations can begin. But 49ers GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan are "not in this to be on the sidelines." Kawakami: "I believe players and agents around the league are quite intrigued by everything going on in Santa Clara" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/12). ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner wrote signing Sherman is a move the 49ers "almost wouldn't have made a year ago and one that sends this unmistakable message: The 49ers believe they are ready to be a legitimate contender" (ESPN.com, 3/10). NBCSN's Mike Florio said, "This is a statement from the 49ers. This is, in my estimation, the 49ers saying, ‘We're back. We had those lost years where it was a disaster. We proved it at the end of 2017 with Jimmy Garoppolo. He's signed, sealed and delivered for the next five years. We're back, we're going to make moves and be a contender’” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/12). In DC, Mark Maske wrote early in this offseason, the 49ers' aspirations of being significantly better in very short order have "become even more realistic" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/11).
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF: Sherman represented himself in contract negotiations, and 49ers Chief Strategy Officer & Exec VP/Football Operations Paraag Marathe said he had "done his research" and was "very impressive." Sherman: "I spend maybe 10, 12 hours reading all these contracts and studying the contract language. If I was going to represent myself, I was going to do the research." But THE MMQB's Peter King notes Sherman will have to be an "all-pro corner for three years to make what the contract originally was reported to be worth." King: "Could an agent have done better? Possibly." So Sherman is getting "knocked for not getting a good-enough deal." That "may have some merit." But Sherman "came out firing on the players-shouldn’t-rep-themselves charge." Sherman: "I don’t think any agent in the business could have done a better job of negotiating this contract. As long as I’m content with what I’m making, nothing else matters to me" (SI.com, 3/12). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Florio wrote players should "hire a good agent," who may have been "able to get Sherman a base package of much more" than $7.21M. Along with the "ability to get back to the market next year." Along with a "more favorable state income tax situation." Good agents "make money for themselves and more money for players." In turn, this takes "more money out of the coffers of billionaires who would love nothing more than to see this still-isolated quirk become a trend, and for that trend to then become the norm" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 3/11). In Boston, Ben Volin noted self-representation is "getting popular these days." Not only is Sherman doing it, but NFL Draft prospect Lamar Jackson is "also forgoing an agent, using his mother as a front person instead" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).
The Twins have become a "desired offseason destination," with P Lance Lynn the "latest in a series of players who chose the Twins over competing -- sometimes better -- offers," according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The "reason is simple," according to Twins P Zach Duke, another of the team's seven free-agent signees. Duke: "The feeling around the game is, we’re going for it. We’ve got a great bunch here, and we can do some great things. That’s attractive to people." Miller notes this winter’s "bizarrely frigid market for available talent ultimately has worked to the Twins’ advantage, to the point where some free agents grew intent upon becoming Twins and wouldn’t take no for an answer." When Lynn -- like 1B Logan Morrison before him -- "didn’t receive sufficiently lucrative long-term contract offers that they had expected, they eventually elected to accept shorter, cheaper deals and try the market again later." The moves have been "mostly applauded by Twins fans, and they are not the only ones growing enthusiastic" about the '18 season. The "buzz in the Twins’ own clubhouse is unmistakable, too" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown noted this is where a "confounding offseason meets the opportunistic Twins." Where a "bright, patient front office ... allows the market to come to it, and walks away with a DH and a No. 3 starter" for something short of $20M (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/11).
TEAM-FRIENDLY: Free agent 3B Mike Moustakas signed a one-year, $6.5M deal to return to the Royals, and in K.C., Pete Grathoff noted Moustakas' deal was "smaller than most expected." But it "worked out in the Royals' favor" (KANSASCITY.com, 3/10). Also in K.C., Vahe Gregorian wrote Moustakas was "irresistible at this price when you combine what he can produce with the intangible values of having back a fan favorite who plays with fire and can serve as a mature ... role model of being raised Royal" (KANSASCITY.com, 3/10).
The Crew drew 11,098 fans for Saturday's home opener at the 19,968-seat Mapfre Stadium against the Impact, and that number will be "parsed, fricasseed and molded to different interpretations," according to Michael Arace of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. There was a time when the Crew "led the league in attendance." There was "never, ever a time when the Crew was the worst draw in the league." But it is "anybody’s guess how the league processes its attendance figures." Supporter group Save The Crew and its offshoot, Fill The Fre, sold tickets, and they "faced a mid-March game and mercurial late-winter weather." They "sold the tickets themselves and made a fine job of it" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/11). A COLUMBUS DISPATCH editorial stated the Crew's legacy "must not be The Move." If any doors "remain open to keep the Crew in Columbus, all options should continue to be explored." The "ultimate fate" of the team is a "worthy first test of provisions of the Modell Law," which was created in '96 after the Browns were moved to Baltimore(COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/10).
MIXED FEELINGS: In Austin, Thomas Jones notes Fox Sports' Alexi Lalas "admitted having mixed feelings about the Crew's potential relocation." Lalas said, "I’m seeing firsthand that Austin is a dynamic soccer city that has a lot of elements that MLS likes; a Hispanic market, a healthy tech industry and a young population. Millennials are soccer fans." Lalas also "lamented the possibility of Columbus "losing its beloved squad." He added, "I sympathize because they are great fans, but they have an owner (Anthony Precourt) that has been open about wanting to leave" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 3/12).
Pistons Owner Tom Gores on Friday "was noncommittal" on the future of team President of Basketball Operations and coach Stan Van Gundy beyond this season, as he "made it clear that this underachieving season is unacceptable," according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The Pistons are ninth in the Eastern Conference at 30-36, and Gores said, “We haven’t won enough, but I can tell you this team works really hard and Stan works really hard. He’s been here four years, dedicating his whole life. I’m not giving up on Stan, I’m not giving up on this team.” Gores said that he "would discuss the situation with Van Gundy when the season is over" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/10). Van Gundy said, "I have no apprehension at all. If I’m not here next year, I’m not chasing jobs anywhere else.” Ellis notes Van Gundy is "nearing the end of the fourth year" of a five-year, $35M deal, and it is "not clear if he will serve out the entire contract" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/10). In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski asked, "Would Gores outright fire Van Gundy?" Wojnowski: "I’m not sure it’ll come to that. When the two meet, my guess is, it’ll be amicable, and might end up being mutual." Gores could "remove one of Van Gundy’s dual roles -- president of basketball operations -- and perhaps give him the last season of his contract solely to coach." But at 58, Van Gundy "might prefer to walk away than accept a new arrangement" (DETROIT NEWS, 3/11).