Richard Sherman offers leadership, helps open 49ers' draft options

49ers signing Sherman to 'incentive-laden deal' (0:49)

Adam Schefter describes the series of events that led to Richard Sherman signing a three-year contract with the 49ers. (0:49)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers made their signing of cornerback Richard Sherman official on Sunday night, filling one of their biggest offseason needs in the process.

Sherman is slated to speak to the Bay Area media via conference call on Monday morning, so there is plenty more to dig into as it pertains to him. But the Niners also have plenty of other work to get done as the early negotiating window opens and free agency officially commences on Wednesday. Before then, we will lay out a plan for how the Niners should allocate their resources as they continue to bolster the roster.

For now, here are a few leftover thoughts from the Sherman signing and where the Niners go now in their secondary:

• Even as the mock-draft universe consistently sent the 49ers a cornerback with their top pick, it always felt like a fait accompli that the team would prioritize a veteran corner this offseason. With Ahkello Witherspoon projected to start at one spot entering just his second season, pairing him with a veteran instead of another rookie seemed like the obvious move if indeed the Niners intended to compete in 2018. That's not to say a rookie can't come in and be a difference-maker (as Marshon Lattimore can attest), but finding a proven veteran like Sherman not only gives the Niners a potentially high-end corner opposite Witherspoon but a valuable leader who should help Witherspoon continue to develop. For all the grumbling about Sherman's outsized personality, anyone who spent time around him in Seattle says he was a positive influence and helpful to the team's young corners.

"Richard is one of the premier competitors Kyle [Shanahan] and I have ever encountered,” Niners general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “We look forward to him sharing his wealth of experience and his passion for the game of football with our team. Richard has long been looked at as the prototypical corner in our scheme and the opportunity to have him mentor our players was one we needed to attack. Most importantly, we are excited to have a championship caliber corner on the field for the 49ers.”

• Speaking of the draft and cornerbacks, I still think it's a good possibility the Niners spend a relatively high pick on a corner this year. Adding Sherman probably means it won't be with their first pick, though I'd add the caveat that if the 49ers believe the best player on the board when they pick is a corner, they won't hesitate to take him. More likely, in a draft that has some depth at the position, the Niners add another corner sometime in the first four rounds or so.

• I also don't think this takes the 49ers out of the market for another free-agent corner, though it would have to be someone on a mid-level contract. Indianapolis' Rashaan Melvin and Jacksonville's Aaron Colvin are scheme fits and probably won't require a massive contract to land. Of course, there will be plenty of suitors for corners, so perhaps their markets go beyond a place the Niners want to go. Either way, the Niners still need some depth at corner and if they can find someone capable of playing outside and in the slot, all the better.

• As for Sherman, there's no doubt the No. 1 factor in determining his success with the Niners is his health. He had surgery on his ruptured right Achilles in November and then had another, more minor cleanup surgery on his left heel earlier this offseason. How he bounces back from that is unknown at this point. For what it's worth, Sherman and the team are confident he will be ready for training camp, and Sherman told ESPN's Josina Anderson he plans to begin running on a treadmill next week. All of that would be positive but there's no guarantee he will return to his previous form. On the bright side, the fact Sherman is so familiar with coordinator Robert Saleh's defensive scheme means the Niners don't have to rush him back to the field in an effort to learn the X's and O's. This training camp will be more about getting him back up to speed physically.

• We don't have all the details yet on Sherman's contract, but early indications are that this is a relatively low-risk deal in which Sherman will get paid like a top corner only if he performs like one. Paraag Marathe, the Niners' chief contract negotiator, has never hesitated to get creative with these deals, and this is no exception. If Sherman is healthy and performs up to his standards, it's a win for everybody. If not, the 49ers can get out of it soon without much of a hit to their future salary-cap plans.

• Finally, a couple of housekeeping items. Some have asked why the Niners are able to sign Sherman before free agency technically begins. The answer is because the Seahawks released Sherman rather than him becoming an unrestricted free agent after his contract lapsed. In that same vein, players who are released and don't become free agents through expiring contracts also don't count against the compensatory pick formula. So Sherman will not count against the Niners when compensatory picks are figured out for next season. Whether the 49ers get any additional picks in 2019 will be the result of who they add in free agency and what kind of deals the likes of Carlos Hyde, Eric Reid and Tank Carradine get if and when they land elsewhere.