In a shocking turn of events, the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on All Pro cornerback Josh Norman this past Wednesday, making him a free agent on the open market.
Leading to the surprising drop of Norman’s franchise tag was the hefty $13.95M in cap space that would carry over into this upcoming season. After learning of the Pro Bowler’s intent on possibly holding out, general manager Dave Gettleman decided to save both parties the headache and set him free on the open market. Getting rid of Norman will be a huge loss as he played a crucial component on that defense on the way to Super Bowl 50, but it gives Gettleman more cap space and flexibility to work with.
Norman has emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and it’s reported that he’ll demand an annual salary of roughly $16M. Norman has plenty of options in free agency, but where will he end up?
The Miami Dolphins aren’t a team who shy away from spending money. After acquiring Byron Maxwell to improve the secondary a bit earlier in the offseason, there still lies a big hole at cornerback. The Dolphins are a team who have underachieved the past couple of seasons, and Norman is the type of player who can bring their defense to the next level. Adding Norman would fill a huge need which would give the Phins more flexibility in the early rounds of the draft.
Their current starters at corner are William Gay and Ross Cockrell. Pittsburgh is a very compelling option for Josh Norman. This team can just never seem to get consistent play on the outside of their secondary. Norman would provide a superstar at corner which the team has lacked even before Ike Taylor’s prime-days in Steel city. One of the early favorites in the AFC for this upcoming season, Norman would make them a legitimate threat; it’s just all a matter of whether they’re willing to pay big money.
San Francisco 49ers
Oh no, Chip Kelly is trying to destroy the 49ers too? On a serious note, the 49ers have emerged as one of the favorites to land Norman’s services. 49ers fans would rejoice if Kelly manages to land the Pro Bowl corner. He would provide an immediate upgrade in the backfield of the secondary and bring length and elite athleticism which Kelly covets in corners. The combination of Norman and a good pick at #7 in the Draft could excel the rebuilding process in San Francisco.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team on the rise, and a team that is well-built throughout the roster, but they could use a corner. While their focus in the draft appears to be on the defensive line, adding a player of Norman’s caliber would do wonders for that defense. The Buccaneers have the cap space necessary to make a deal, but are they willing to cut off future assets for his services? I think they should pull the trigger – it would make them an instant competitor in the NFC South and they could stick it to Carolina twice a year.
Now we know the Redskins are another team that aren’t scared to spend top dollar for top of the line players. The ‘Skins look like the favorite at this point as they are one of the few teams Norman has had contract discussions with. If they want to repeat as NFC East champions, they may have to make a deal of this magnitude.