Richard Sherman returned to the 49ers’ lineup in Week 12 for the first time since the season opener.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said he would like to keep the cornerback right where he is for as long as he is playing football.
If Sherman finishes the season strong after a calf injury forced him to miss nine games, he figures to have plenty of opportunities around the league if he reaches the free-agent market in March. Sherman returned to the lineup with an interception in the 49ers' 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Shanahan said he and general manager John Lynch will make strides toward extending Sherman's union with the organization.
“Sherm's a guy that, personally, and I know John feels the same -- we went on our team at all times,” Shanahan said. “Sherm's a guy that when he does get older and he does descend, he's such a good football player, he finds a way.”
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Sherman, 32, is in his 10th NFL season. An NFL All-Decade selection for the 2010s, Sherman leads all active players with 36 career interceptions.
He negotiated his own three-year, $30.6 million contract with the 49ers in 2018, This week, Pro Football Focus ranked Sherman as the No. 21 scheduled free agent and projected he would sign a two-year, $28 million contract to remain with the 49ers.
But the 49ers are going to have some issues this offseason with a salary cap expected to drop by approximately $20 million and a bunch of other key free agents.
“I understand his contract issue this year,” Shanahan said. “I understand there's a number of guys on our team with that this year. But whoever can help us win football games, our guys are trying to figure out how to bring back, especially guys who do it the right way.
“Sherm is as good as anyone in those categories.”
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The 49ers will face a lot of challenges in keeping their core players together in 2021. Veteran cornerback Jason Verrett, who has remained healthy and is playing at a Pro Bowl level, is also scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
In addition to his on-field production, Sherman also makes noticeable contributions to the locker room and the culture within the organization.
“Now there's lots of stuff that go into it at the end of the year and how we're going to balance all this out and wait to figure out what the salary cap is and stuff with what happens,” Shanahan said, “but I know Sherm's time here, he's been everything we've hoped and more.
“And I really hope that these next whatever games we have left, I really hope that's not the end of it."