NFL teams were caught by surprise with the Carolina Panthers rescinding the franchise tag from right under Josh Norman, making the cornerback suddenly available for normal free agency proceedings, with the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans already lining up, while he might end up going back to the Panthers eventually.
It’s been seven years since the last time a team rescinded a franchise tag: The most “recent” cases of the franchise tag being pulled were Leroy Hill in 2009 (Seahawks) and Corey Simon (Eagles) in 2005. Norman has been looking for $16 million a season, or at least getting paid like Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis ($14 million on average), but the Panthers, who do have a lot of cap space, weren’t willing to go higher than $10.5-11 million, which is more or less Byron Maxwell money. Now, without the commitment to Norman, they have $30 million in cap space.
Eight or nine teams have already contacted Norman as he tries to understand the situation and decide where to go to from here. Assuming he’s still looking for $14 million a season and teams leave to need something for the draft, there are about eight teams capable of affording him, six of them mentioned above. The Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns weren’t planning on making big splashes at this point, but no one was.
The Jaguars, with over $53 million in cap space and a real need for a strong cover corner, could be the ideal place for Norman to land in. He has mentioned his admiration for the 49ers in the past, while the Giants have already made huge strides in upgrading their defense through free agency, so why not spend a little bit more money? While we’re really close to the draft, there’s still time to add one more big name for some teams.
Maybe this is all part of the negotiation between the sides and Norman ends up playing for the Panthers in the end. They could have made things a lot worse for him by pulling the franchise tag after the draft. At the moment this seems like a way of putting some pressure on him and maybe gauging how much teams around the league are willing to offer so they understand how to proceed from here.
Norman was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro last season, finishing with four interceptions and two touchdowns while playing all 16 games for the Panthers. He also finished with 18 deflected passes and 56 tackles, positioning himself among the best cornerbacks in the NFL.