Richard Sherman is an expert tea-leaf reader.
The San Francisco 49ers corner is also usually blunt when reading the future, especially when the main subject is himself.
The 32-year-old Pro Bowler, headed toward free agency once again in 2021, analyzed the Niners' situation and doesn't see how he'll return to the Bay Area next season with San Francisco needing to lock up players like left tackle Trent Williams or extend star linebacker Fred Warner.
"If there's some miracle that happens, then sure there's an opening," Sherman said Thursday, via ESPN. "But there's 40 free agents and they'll probably have $30 million or less in cap and they have got to bring back Trent, who costs over $20 million. They have to pay Fred, who costs $18 million-plus a year. So anybody who knows the situation understands that."
Sherman, who represents himself, said he's had brief discussions with management about the future. While both sides would welcome a return, a clear-eyed Sherman doesn't see how the financials would work, especially with a likely lower salary cap in 2021.
"I know the salary cap," Sherman said. "Dealing with the [NFLPA], dealing with the league. And I know their salary-cap situation."
Sherman, who missed nine games this season due to a calf injury, is invaluable to the Niners' defense. His ability to still blanket one side of the field along with leadership qualities in the locker room are rare.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said last week he hopes the team can find a way to keep a player like Sherman, even if it's a long shot.
"Sherm's a guy that I know I personally, and I know [general manager] John [Lynch] feels the same [that] we want 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. I understand his contract issue this year. 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 [them] back, especially guys who do it the right way.
"Sherm is as good as anyone in those categories. 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, 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."
Sherman's comments reflect a player who knows he can likely make more on the open market than returning to a club that has higher priorities than signing an 11-year veteran, albeit a still very good one when healthy. It's possible Sherman could follow Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh -- a man he's loudly stumped for -- to a new team to help install a defense and culture, assuming the DC lands a head coaching gig this hiring cycle.