The Panthers will likely place the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman in the event that the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Clubs can begin using tags on February 18, and have until March 1 to assign their franchise tender.
Contract discussions between Norman and Carolina haven’t been abundant, or at least haven’t been made public. The closest the club has come to acknowledging the dilemma of retaining Norman was general manager Dave Gettleman last month telling David Newton of ESPN.com that it will be a “headache” attempting to retain not only Norman, but the rest of the Carolina free agent crop.
The franchise tag figure for cornerbacks will likely come in at $14-15MM, so Norman will earn a hefty payday even if he and the club can’t come to a long-term agreement. But it’s worth wondering what such an extension would look like. I looked at the issue back in November, arguing that Norman should be in line for a deal in the Richard Sherman/Patrick Peterson neighborhood: $14MM annually, and approaching $20MM in guarantees.
According the Over the Cap’s data, the Panthers currently have roughly $19.6MM in projected cap space heading into the 2016 offseason, so while fitting in a one-year franchise-tag salary of $14-15MM is possible, the club would be financially strapped, especially when including 2016 draft class cap charges. But Carolina could release defensive ends Charles Johnson and Jared Allen in the coming month, moves that would save the club nearly $20MM in cap space, making a franchise tender for Norman more palatable.
The 28-year-old Norman has certainly put himself in a great position heading into unrestricted free agency, as 2015 was easily the best season of his four-year career. He was named first team All Pro and selected for his first Pro Bowl, and posted solid raw statistics, producing career highs in both interceptions (four) and passes defensed (18). Norman was well-regarded by advanced metrics as well, finishing as the league’s 12th-best corner by Pro Football Focus’ grades.
For his part, Norman is ready to ink that contract that he feels he’s earned. “Because from day one, I’ve always been cashing in on myself,” Norman told Schefter this week. “If you don’t cash in on yourself, who is going to do it for you? If you don’t think you’re doing your job, who’s going to do it for you?”
I ranked Norman, set to play in his first Super Bowl later today, fifth in our most recent 2016 free agent power rankings.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.