On Wednesday, the Carolina Panthers sent shock waves throughout the NFL when they decided to rescind the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman; making him an unrestricted free agent.
Norman performed at an All-NFL level last season, appearing in his first career Pro Bowl by racking up a career-best 50 tackles. Norman proved why he was one of the NFL’s best cover corners while playing alongside 50+ tackle cornerbacks Kurt Coleman and Bene Benwikere. Norman revamped Carolina’s zone defense into an elite unit by playing in 1,142 total snaps last season (96.5% of Carolina’s defensive snaps), which was the fourth best in the league. Only Seattle’s Richard Sherman (98.2), Kansas City’s Ron Parker (97.2), and Oakland’s Charles Woodson (96.6), displayed a better defensive snap percentage than Norman.
At 28, Norman still has a good 3-4 years left in him, which is why a large quantity of NFL GM’s instantaneously reached into their pocket books once the news broke, as they will all be in pursuit to land the coveted CB.
In retrospect, I think the Panthers made the right call in letting Norman walk as it will benefit the franchise in the long run. The Panthers as a whole exhibited integrity over artifice in their move, conceding that they aren’t afraid to mortgage the future success of the franchise for a player that doesn’t appear to retain the right mindset within the organization. Especially with just one Pro Bowl season, and by all accounts a questionable attitude. Prior to last year’s breakout season, Norman was in head coach Ron Rivera’s doghouse, and didn’t receive the same amount of playing time as in 2015. For his first three seasons in Carolina, Norman never played in more than 80% of Carolina’s defensive snaps. It’s understandable for a player wanting an increase of pay after being so productive on the field, but it was just one season and Norman’s asking price is absolutely ridiculous.
He wants Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis type money, requesting $16 Million per year, and that’s just not going to happen. Norman only has one great year under his belt whereas Revis and Peterson have proven track records. I’m not saying Norman isn’t a great player, because he may be worth his desired salary someday, but not right now. Norman didn’t get thrown at much the second half of the season as he did in the first half. However, there were situations last year where Norman gambled and got burned in coverage, putting Panthers’ defense in hazardous positions.
Another big factor in his decision is his attitude. It’s been reported that he was not the best locker room presence and one thing that’s occurred since Dave Gettleman’s arrival to the Panthers is paramount chemistry within the locker room. Norman’s attitude played a critical part in his contract negotiations and it was clear to Gettleman that a long-term contract wasn’t feasible to satisfy Norman’s demands.
Carolina was reportedly willing to give Norman $11 million per year, which isn’t too shabby. But Norman rejected the offer. As a result, the Panthers readily obliged to allow him and his agent to explore a trade. When that didn’t work out they simply cut ties with him altogether.
Honestly, the Panthers might be in better shape now they ever were in free agency, opening up with $32 Million in cap space. Carolina can shore up multiple areas of the roster and not have much money chewed up by one player; which could potentially handcuff the organization in the future when trying to add other players or re-sign their own. Speaking of retaining their own players, the Panthers can now lock up core players like defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei to long-term deals.
Gettleman has proven over the years that he’s not apprehensive to make the unthinkable move in order to keep the window of opportunity of the franchise intact.