NFL AM: Panthers Rescind Franchise Tag From Josh Norman


Norman Free To Test The Market

It’s rare that a Top 5 free agent is available in April.

It’s also rare and basically unheard of that the top two picks in the NFL Draft are traded more than a week prior to the event.

It’s safe to assume that this is a rare offseason.

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman rescinded the franchise tag that he placed on Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, making him a free agent.

Two months ago, the Panthers were willing to pay Norman $14 million to play for them during the 2016 NFL season while they tried to work out a long-term deal.

On Wednesday evening, Gettleman figured that his team was better off without the 28-year old cornerback that was a first-team All Pro.

To make sense of this, you have to understand that the Panthers general manager is as no-nonsense as they come.  He sent away the Panthers most accomplished player in wide receiver Steve Smith just a couple years ago and he’s a believer that it’s better to put your money in the defensive line rather than the secondary.

Most would agree with that sentiment.

With that said, there won’t be a small market for Norman’s services.  He’s an elite cornerback, despite playing in a zone scheme.

The problem for whatever team that wants to sign him will be whether they will acquiesce to his and agent Michael George’s demands.  This is Norman’s last, best chance for a payday and he wants to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.  That honor currently goes to future Hall of Famer and two-time New York Jets superstar Darrelle Revis who earns an average of $14.025 million annually.  Second on the list is Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, clocking in at $14.010 million.

Despite his unbelievable 2015 campaign, Norman is not considered to be in the category of guys like Revis, Peterson and Richard Sherman.

“People say Josh Norman is tough, don’t get me wrong he’s a good player, but they play Cover 2,” Falcons Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones told Football Insiders late in the 2015 season.  “If you want to be a lockdown corner, yeah you follow me but you only have to play one half.  The Darrelle Revis’, the Richard Sherman’s the Patrick Peterson’s, they follow people all over the field and take away half of the field.”

Jones paused for a second and then qualified his statement.

“No shots at him, he’s a good player.”

Norman is not one of those, man-up, lock-down cornerbacks, but he wants to be paid like one.  The Panthers were reportedly offering $11-12 million per year, but the former fifth-round pick wanted the negotiations to start at Revis and Peterson money.

Did The Panthers Play Fair?

When the Panthers placed the franchise tag on Norman, he was immediately crossed off several teams’ free agent lists.  Nobody is going to pay the compensation of two first-round picks for a cornerback.  In fact, few teams would pay that ransom for any player outside of Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, J.J. Watt and Von Miller.

Carolina basically flexed their muscles with the tag and took Norman off the market, only to change their collective minds and return him to a smaller market, as many teams spent their free agency money elsewhere.

Norman could have signed the tag and none of this would have happened. 

It’s true, Norman could have ran to the team complex, put pen to paper and have been guaranteed $14 million no matter what.

Of course if he would have done that it would have limited his negotiating leverage considerably in the search for a new deal.

Did the Panthers operate within the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement? Yes.

Did they violate any rules?  No.

Did they violate the spirit of the franchise tag?  Absolutely.

It’s difficult for fans to feel bad for a guy that wouldn’t sign a deal for $14 million, but next time you see a player hold out, it’s because teams are cut-throat and will try to use every inch of leverage they have.

Where Is the Best Landing Spot For Norman?

Josh Norman is an ultra-talented guy that would fit in well in most defenses.  In trying to find a landing spot for him, let’s look at the teams with the most money first.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers have the most cap space and either can afford to give Norman his asking price without batting an eyelash.

If winning, along with the huge dollars are important, Jacksonville would seem like the best destination.  They have an explosive offense, signed some big free agents already and play in a weak division.

Meanwhile, Norman is likely more familiar with San Francisco as he spent Super Bowl week there, and reportedly enjoyed the area.  With that said, there are few pieces to really build with, Norman’s personality doesn’t look like it would mesh at all with new head coach Chip Kelly, and the cost of living in the Bay Area is significantly higher.  Not to mention the quality of opponents in the NFC West.

Two more Florida teams seem like a pretty good fit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins.  Of the two, Miami seems to be the more attractive destination based on the defensive line which boasts Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams.

Other teams that could be a good fit are the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.

Our best guess for a final destination is Indianapolis, where he will team up with Vontae Davis to form one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.