The free agency season is back on for one of the biggest defensive players in the NFL, but what suddenly precipitated it? A fallout of nuclear implications just wafted out of Charlotte on Wednesday when the Panthers abruptly rescinded the franchise tag on standout cornerback Josh Norman, erasing a promised salary of $14 million and placing Norman on the free market immediately, no restrictions.
The Panthers announced they removed the franchise tag from CB Josh Norman. He's now an unrestricted free agent and on the open market.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 20, 2016
The general manager of the Carolina Panthers, Dave Gettleman, claimed that there was no hope of getting a long-term deal done with Josh Norman. In most scenarios, a team would probably get the most out of a player that has warranted the franchise tag. Instead, the Panthers straight cut him because the two sides couldn't figure out how to play ball (figuratively speaking, of course).
It's a curious move for many reasons, and the powers that be are lining up to decry or praise Gettleman's hardball tactics for whatever they're worth. But more importantly, every team with a shred of cap space is scrambling to figure out if they have enough to suddenly add one of the most dangerous corners last year in the NFL.
The Lions could, feasibly, be in this -- if, however, one were to cut Stephen Tulloch (the Lions will probably hold onto him for trade bait), finagle the pay for rookies for the 2016 NFL Draft and probably just give up on paying Darius Slay that extension this year. In other words: maybe in theory, but very unlikely in practice. If anything, Norman back on the open market might mean a larger payday for Darius Slay's camp.
Norman and the Panthers ostensibly parted ways because Norman wasn't about to take a pay cut in any regard, so looking for him to do the same right now in free agency for the Lions, or most other powers that be, is probably a fool's errand. That said, the timing of the offseason is not fortuitous for Norman, who might be forced to settle for a pay cut in the first year (but will probably demand reimbursement down the line). Nevertheless, someone will find a way to pay him and pay him well; that much is certain.
There is also the angle that Josh Norman will be 29 this year and has right now one spectacular season behind him. However, the shifting paradigm of the NFL places emphasis on top corners being necessary to achieve greatness and Norman certainly has the potential to be one of the best in the league for years to come.