I was shocked when Panthers GM Dave Gettleman rescinded the franchise tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, but upon further reflection, the prospect of a young team fresh off a Super Bowl appearance having the fourth most salary cap room is an even scarier proposition than having Norman to line up on the perimeter in 2016 on a mercenary deal.
The Panthers, now flush with over $30 million in cap space heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, have opened up the financial coffers for the future, giving them the flexibility to re-sign some of their young defensive stalwarts like Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, both of which are slated to hit the open market in 2017. More importantly, it shows that Gettleman is a bad ass GM who is not interested in staring contests with overvalued players and it will be interesting to see if this unprecedented redaction begins a new trend in the NFL among GMs.
Anyway, back to Norman...
and it's going to take a deal in the area of $14-15 million per year to get Norman to sign on the dotted line. So let's take a look at how he would fit with each team, as well as any other team that According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers are the two front-runners for the 28-year-old's servicescould sneak in. After all, CB Patrick Robinson was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Cowboys until the Colts came out of nowhere to scoop him up.
CB DEPTH CHART: Chris Culliver, Deangelo Hall, Breshaud Breeland, Greg Toler, Quinton Dunbar, Dashawn Phillips
Norman is supposedly visiting with the Redskins on Friday and they have the early lead to secure his signature on a rumored 5-year deal. The only problem? The Redskins only have about $11.4 million in cap room. GM Scot McCloughan can get creative in structuring a bonus-laden contract to fit Norman under the cap without cutting anyone, but is it worth it? The Redskins are already investing $9.25 million for an under-performing Chris Culliver and $5 million for Deangelo Hall (although Hall may play FS this year). Releasing Culliver could save them $5.5 million according to Spotrac.com, but if they don't, signing Norman would mean the Redskins would have over $40 million in the CB position, which seems ridiculous.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
CB DEPTH CHART: Tramaine Brock, Kenneth Acker, Dontae Johnson, Marcus Cromartie, Keith Reasor, Chris Davis
Norman's camp said that they were going to take their time to take everything into consideration before making a decision, including scheme, franchise direction, and coach. But if that were really the case, Chip Kelly and the 49ers would not be in contention. It's all about the money, and that's fine, because the 49ers have over $50 million of it and really couldn't find anyone to take it in free agency. Cornerback is an enormous need for the 49ers (the above list is appalling), but as a zone corner playing in a 3-4 scheme, it would be very difficult for Norman to have the type of impact with San Francisco as he did in Carolina. He would still instantly become the best player in their secondary, but Norman would never play up to the level of what he would be getting paid. But again, having $50 million sitting around isn't going to make them better, so if they can sign Norman, more power to them.
DARK HORSE - JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
CB DEPTH CHART: Davon House, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Colvin*, Dwayne Gratz, Nick Marshall
Things have been super quiet on the Jaguars front. A little too quiet, if you ask me. The Jaguars were publicly cited to have had interest in Norman before he was assigned the franchise tag, so the fact they aren't even inquiring about Norman now that he is free is a head-scratcher. Signing an injury-prone player like Prince Amukamara to a 1-year "prove-it" deal would not logically inhibit the decision for the cash-flush Jaguars to pursue a player like Norman, especially with promising nickel corner Aaron Colvin suspended for the first four games of the season. Some are of the thinking that GM Dave Caldwell is waiting in the weeds to match/exceed any offer Norman and his camp receive at the last minute, but if there is legitimately no interest in the superstar CB from the Jaguars, either they could really be hanging their hat on Jalen Ramsey being available in the draft at #5 or they are just being bad.