SEATTLE -- Cornerback Richard Sherman made it abundantly clear that he wants "to go to a contender" after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks, even if that contender might be the team that is letting him go.
The Seahawks announced Sherman's release Friday with a failed physical designation while also parting ways with cornerback Jeremy Lane.
"Thank you for helping win championships, shape our culture and define success in Seattle," the Seahawks said about Sherman in a statement. "We love you and your unwavering competitiveness, confidence and fierce passion for football and life. For that, you will always be a Hawk!"
The release means Sherman -- who is acting as his own agent -- can get a head start on finding his next team. He can now sign anywhere -- including the Seahawks -- without having to wait until the start of free agency on March 14.
"I want to go to a contender," Sherman, who will turn 30 on March 30, told Seattle's KIRO 97.3 FM on Friday. "I play at [a] high level. I've always been a guy that can work well with others and continue to elevate if my teammates elevate and elevate others. In Seattle, we had a lot of guys playing at a high level regardless. ... We had to fit in like puzzle pieces and play off each other. We all did that very well, and that's why we had the success we had.
"Would I go to a young secondary that is like we were when we were younger and help them grow and help them advance? Sure, if the number looks right and the situation is comfortable for me and my family."
The move hardly comes as a surprise, as NFL Network reported Wednesday that the Seahawks would attempt to trade him. The report also said Sherman had been telling teammates goodbye.
Sherman told ESPN's Josina Anderson that the Seahawks are letting him test free agency "with the hope that I can return" and that Seattle "just wanted the financial flexibility."
"We've had conversations, and they've told me they're going to allow me to go into free agency. But they want me to understand that the door is open for me to return," Sherman told KIRO 97.3 FM. "They're just trying to do what they need to do to clear up space and give me and them the best chance at free agency, and I've got to appreciate and respect that."
Sherman told KIRO 97.3 FM that his career with the Seahawks to this point is "incomplete."
"Obviously, to the fans and to some of the people, it's probably one of the more recognizable careers in a player's history, in the history of the franchise," Sherman said. "But I hold myself to a high standard and have a lot of years left in me. I want to win more Super Bowls with my organization, so it's incomplete. Hopefully I'll get a chance to come back and accomplish those goals, but that is to be seen."
Sherman later posted a farewell on his Twitter account and thanked the Seahawks and their fans.
"I would like to say thank you to the Seattle Seahawks organization for taking a chance on a kid that was overlooked by many. For that I am forever grateful," Sherman wrote. "Thank you to the coaching staff, trainers, equipment guys, and office staff for the love and support you have shown me for the last seven seasons. To my brothers, this journey would not have been the same without each of you. It has been [an] amazing ride from beginning to end, with memories to last a lifetime. To the 12s, you have been nothing short of amazing. The support you have shown me on and off the field has been invaluable to my family and I. Truly appreciate each and every one of you for showing up every Sunday to cheer us on. As this chapter comes to a close, I am looking forward to what the future holds."
Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson paid tribute to his longtime teammate in a tweet.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) March 9, 2018
Lane, meanwhile, lost his starting job twice last season -- to Shaquill Griffin and then to Byron Maxwell -- and was initially included in the Seahawks' package to the Houston Texans in the Duane Brown trade. But he returned to Seattle after he failed his physical.
Releasing Lane clears $4.75 million in 2018 cap space. Lane had two years remaining on his contract.
The moves come two days after Seattle traded defensive lineman Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles in what may have only been the start of drastic retooling of their roster, particularly on defense.
Sherman had one season left on the four-year, $56 million extension he signed in 2014 after Seattle won Super Bowl XLVIII. He was scheduled to count $13.2 million against the 2018 salary cap. Releasing him saves Seattle $11 million in cash and 2018 cap space.
One of the most accomplished cornerbacks of his generation, Sherman made four Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro three times during his seven seasons with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the fifth round out of Stanford in 2011. His 32 interceptions in that span are first among NFL players, as are his 99 passes defended, according to the NFL.
Sherman was an instrumental figure in Seattle's historically good defense, which allowed the fewest points in the NFL every year from 2012 to 2015. During Sherman's seven seasons with the team, the Seahawks made five playoff appearances, reached two Super Bowls and delivered Seattle its first NFL championship.
But Sherman's future with Seattle had been in question since last offseason, when the Seahawks, in a rare move, publicly acknowledged that they were exploring potential trades. That followed a turbulent 2016 season in which the often outspoken Sherman twice lost his cool on the sideline during separate outbursts aimed at Seattle's coaches.
An ESPN The Magazine story by Seth Wickersham published last offseason detailed the strain in Sherman's relationship with the team and its connection to the disastrous ending of Super Bowl XLIX. Sherman referenced Seattle's last-minute interception by the New England Patriots after another pass by quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line was nearly picked off in a 2016 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Sherman gave coach Pete Carroll and then-offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell an earful on the sideline. He told reporters afterward that he was expressing his disapproval of the playcall.
Sherman returned in 2017 and was again playing at a high level before he suffered a ruptured Achilles in November. That ended his season and his streak of 99 consecutive starts. Sherman had never missed a game in his career, appearing in 105 straight until he was hurt in Seattle's Thursday night victory over Arizona.
Also injured in that game was Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor, who along with Sherman was a founding member of the team's "Legion of Boom" secondary. Chancellor's neck injury may prevent him from playing again, and defensive end Cliff Avril also suffered a career-threatening neck injury earlier in the season.
In addition to having surgery to repair his ruptured right Achilles shortly after suffering the injury, Sherman had a recent cleanup procedure performed on the same part of his left foot. He told reporters last month that he expected to resume running in mid-April or early May and said he could be "fully ready to go" by minicamp in mid-June.
Speaking at the scouting combine last week, Carroll described Sherman's recovery from both surgeries as "very positive."
"He's had a seemingly great process up until now," Carroll said. "It's a bit of a setback for a couple of weeks now because he's in the boot on the other foot, but he's not slowing down. He's working like crazy. He's having a fantastic offseason. His mentality is good. He's competing like crazy right now.''
But neither Carroll nor general manager John Schneider shot down speculation that Sherman could be released, a possibility that became reality on Friday.
Lane, 27, is one of the Seahawks' longest-tenured players, having been drafted in the sixth round in 2012 out of Northwestern State in Louisiana. He was Seattle's primary nickelback from 2014 to 2016 and made 21 starts, including six this past season.
Lane was arrested outside of Seattle in January on suspicion of DUI. His blood-alcohol level was well within the legal limit, but Lane admitted to the arresting state trooper that he had smoked marijuana prior to driving.