Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman will be returning to the team in 2019. Signed to a new one-year contract earlier this week, he is the first — and so far, the only — Chiefs free agent the team has resigned for 2019.
Now entering his ninth NFL season after being to traded to the Chiefs in 2013, Sherman, 31, is an annual subject of conversation among many Chiefs fans during the offseason — not because of his ability as a player, but because of the size of his contract.
“Why are we paying Anthony Sherman $2 million a year?” these fans would ask. “He hardly produces anything on the field, and we could use that money to help sign [insert big-time free agent player name here].”
These fans have always (sort of) had a point. In 2014, Sherman was signed to a three-year contract that paid him an average of $2.1 million per year. In 2017, he signed a one-year deal for $1.25 million, and in 2018, another one-year contract gave him $2 million.
If you choose to only look at Sherman through the lens of his NFL offensive statistics, that does seem like a lot of money.
But on Thursday — when Sherman’s 2019 contract numbers came to light — the annual argument came to an end.
Per OverTheCap.com, the Chiefs gave Sherman a $90,000 signing bonus on a base salary of $930,000, which would make his cap hit $1,020,000 for the year — except that his cap hit for 2019 will be only $735.000.
How is this possible?
It’s because Sherman’s 2019 contract qualifies for something called the NFL veteran minimum salary benefit. If a player has more than four years of NFL experience and signs a one-year contract with total contract bonuses that don’t exceed a certain level (this changes from year to year) he can be paid the NFL minimum salary commensurate with his experience, but the team only has to carry the cap hit of a player with two years of NFL experience — which is currently $645,000. So that — plus his $90,000 signing bonus — is Sherman’s cap hit for 2019.
First, kudos to the Chiefs for allowing Sherman to test the free agent market. As a fullback in a league that seems to have forgotten the position exists, this offseason was probably Sherman’s last chance to get another decent payday. His Pro Bowl performance — which many considered to be MVP-worthy — gave him that chance, but it just wasn’t to be.
Second, kudos to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach for making a smart move with a valued veteran player. This particular wrinkle of the league’s collective bargaining agreement was designed for exactly this kind of situation, and Veach deserves credit for recognizing it. Everybody wins on this deal.
And finally... kudos to Anthony Sherman. For the record, I have never agreed with the annual calls for the Chiefs to move on from Sherman. In my own opinion, Sherman has earned every dollar the Chiefs have ever paid him.
In the eyes of Chiefs fans, Sherman will never reach the level of legendary Chiefs fullbacks like Tony Richardson or Kimble Anders — but like them, his offensive production has never been about quantity. Instead, it’s been about quality.
Sherman is a terrific blocker, and is big part of the reason the Chiefs under Andy Reid have always had an effective rushing attack — no matter which running back was leading the way.
But when he is asked to do more, Sherman is like Nike — he just does it. Sherman has scored a touchdown on 4.7 percent of his career touches. That’s exactly the same percentage as Kareem Hunt, and a higher percentage than Jamaal Charles (3.7), Priest Homes (4.4), Marcus Allen (3.9), LaDanian Tomlinson (4.2) and even Emmitt Smith (3.5).
And while his contributions there are seldom noticed, Sherman has been one of the cornerstones of the Chiefs special teams ever since coordinator Dave Toub arrived. Toub properly gets most of the credit for his units that have been among the NFL’s best for the last six seasons, but lets face it: Sherman does a lot of the work.
If all of that isn’t worth a million bucks — and a $735,000 cap hit — nothing is.