Now that we've all had a little time to swallow the news of the Carolina Panthers rescinding the Franchise tag on Josh Norman, let's take a moment and calmly try to digest it.
First, let's set some things straight so everybody knows a few basics. Josh wasn't cut; his unsigned contract offer was pulled. Nobody was fired or even "let go" as there was no agreement legally in place for either party for the 2016 season. What it boils down to is that anybody can sign him.
What is also known is he's asking for $14 million per season. Patrick Peterson recently signed a five-year $70 million contract. That's $14 million per season, and Peterson is widely regarded as a top-five NFL CB, so his deal set the current market.
However, there are some things that may or may not be apparent. As much as I like Josh and would love to have him in the fold this fall, Peterson can do several things that Josh simply can't. Peterson has elite top-end sub-4.4 speed. Josh has basically 4.6 speed and isn't one who is going to chase down a defender -- whether it was his own responsibility or not -- to keep a long gain from becoming a touchdown. He simply doesn't have that extra gear.
The other main thing is that Peterson is quite a dangerous punt returner, if not the most dangerous in the entire league. Josh is no return man.
The last thing could be as telling as any, and many of you may not realize how old Norman is. He's 28 years old and will turn 29 in December. Peterson won't turn 26 until July.
Norman's decent-sized at 6 feet even but Peterson is an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier.
So, when you look at the math, which only Dave Gettleman has the luxury of doing, I think he decided that the overall value just wasn't going to be there over the long term and did what Norman probably ultimately wanted, which is to make as much money as he can make.
Here's the "on the other hand" part. What Norman lacks in physical traits, he makes up for in brains and film study along with benefitting by a scheme that doesn't really expose him that often to begin with. Carolina runs a version of the Tampa-2 defense, which is basically Cover-2 but modified to take advantage of linebackers that can cover. Both generally keep the safeties helping out over the top, thus the name.
What helps Norman's market value is the fact that there are always several teams in the league that are desperately short at a particular position each year...just like Carolina was when Byron Bell was moved to left tackle and are still looking to upgrade there, in fact. The point is that all it takes is a single team to fall in love with him and he could make that $14 million a year elsewhere.
However, without that 4.4 top-end speed, teams that run man-coverage "Revis Island" type defenses would particularly be a challenge that Norman may or may not be up to. I think his talents are suited exactly for Carolina's zone scheme because it minimizes exposure to the deep ball. Don't forget Odell Beckham's "GinnFingers" drop early in that "He Has a BAT! OMG!" Giants whinemaker last year. Norman was beaten on that play but had gotten into Beckham's head weeks before the match-up even happened.
Now that I've taken you through that, just keep in mind what the organization says. The door's not closed on Josh. Don't you remember that Charles Johnson was gone-then-back just a couple of months ago?
It might be that Gettleman is calling Norman's bluff, letting him test the market, and if someone wants to overpay for him, then good for Josh. He may go out there, find out that he's realistically either not going to make $14 million per year or be with a team that stinks or has a bad defense where he has a LOT more snaps to take. I'm just not seeing a current top-tier team spending quite how much he's asking for for sure.
After all is said and done, Josh could just figure that a shot at a ring is worth more than money can buy and stay with the team that is best-suited to bring him one.
You can't put a price on that.
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