Panthers Rescind Franchise Tag on Josh Norman

In a bit of stunning news the Carolina Panthers have agreed to remove the franchise tag on Josh Norman making him an unrestricted free agent. The Panthers were unable to come to a long term agreement with Norman and decided it was best to just move on rather than pay him $13.952 million for the season. This is not something that is common in the NFL. I think its happened maybe once in the last decade. So lets look at a few things concenring the move.

Its important to understand that the franchise tag is not really a good thing for either side. For players they receive no long term job security. For teams its often throwing big money for one season at a player for no good reason. Usually you use the tag to maintain negotiating rights and leverage a better contract with the threat of injury looming over a player’s head. But if that does not work ll you do is harm yourself long term. If you agree to a deal the following year the player is already a year older and the on field value declines even though the cost does not. Its a one year rental and how many one year rentals do we see in the NFL for $14 million?  None.

On this site weve discussed for awhile the unique case with Norman. Norman is an older first time free agent (he’ll be 29 this season) and prior to this year was looked at as a 1A more than than 1. Norman had a fantastic season and got an incredible amount of media publicity in his walk year but the lessons of Byron Maxwell last year in Philly were going to damage a player like Norman. It also did not help him that Darrelle Revis, at 30, looked far more mortal than the Revis Island player we had all grown to know. Combine it all and its difficult to just throw him $14 million a year or whatever he was looking for if you are a cautious organization.

The free agent cornerbacks this year almost all proved to be a dud with the exception of Janoris Jenkins who signed right out of the gates with the Giants. His closest comparable would be Sean Smith, the 29 year old who played last year in Kansas City. Smith signed in Oakland for $9.5 million a season with $15 million fully guaranteed and $20.5 million paid in two years. That is probably what the Panthers see as the market for Norman.

If the Panthers see that as a fair market there is no reason for them to use the tag on Norman. If they pay him $14 million this season he will earn far more than $20.5 million over two years if they sign him after the year. His guarantees would also run through 2018 rather than 2017. Carolina just recently dug themselves out of a three year cap nightmare. They need to set a stage for future decisions and sensible cap management. That makes a player like Norman expendable.

Nothing precludes Norman from returning to Carolina. Carolina released Charles Johnson earlier this year when he was resistant to a pay cut. Johnson found that the market for him was quite limited and opted to come back to Carolina rather than take a one year deal in an unfamiliar place that was offering more but not a life changing amount more. It is truly letting the market bring high expectations way down.

The timing of the move benefits the Panthers. Most teams by now have spent their money and won’t be looking to spend much more. They are fully in draft prep mode and most likely never even gave Norman a thought since he was under the tag and nobody expected him to be released. That doesnt mean nobody is interested, just that it will be less than if he was a free agent in March. The Jaguars would be the most logical team to make a big play, but if they are bidding against nobody they may not go overboard either. Most teams at this stage would give one year “prove it” contracts to someone. Clearly that wont be the case here as hell wind up back in Carolina.

I doubt that this signals that the Panthers are going to make some other big move. I guess its possible they could be looking to trade for a receiver like Jeffrey, but most likely this is just a shrewd move designed to manage expectations and future cap room. It is an eye on long term prospects and that is the most important thing to do in the NFL to maintain success. With Normans release the Panthers should have the 4th most cap room in the NFL to roll over to the future.

  • LM

    Very unorthodox move by Carolina. I agree with the premise of building for the future and putting the franchise in great cap space in the years moving forward but I would have personally entertained trading him before I just cut him free. Once all avenues of trade were exhausted, Then you can proceed with this type of move if necessary.

    As a Jets fan, I would have been livid if they just cut Revis and parted ways with him without exploring trade options. The Jets ended up trading Revis and getting Sheldon Richardson out of the deal. They ended up bringing Revis back but atleast, They got something in return for Darrelle.

    If I am an NFC South team or a team that is on the verge of contending for a title like say Arizona, I am going in on Norman. Carolina will be livid if he ends up helping a division rival or a competing NFC powerhouse beat them, They are probably rooting for a Jacksonville to break the bank for Norman.

    • McGeorge

      The problem with the Panthers trading him after the super bowl is the receiving team has to pay him “a kings ransom” and in addition has to give up a draft pick? As opposed to Norman walking and the Panthers getting a compensatory 3rd round pick.
      If a team wont give up its third round pick or better, it makes sens eto let him go free agent.

      • LM

        The Jets and Broncos are in the same boat that Carolina was with Norman. I’d be shocked if the Jets rescinded their franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson and if Denver rescinded theirs on Von Miller. Both teams are in much tighter cap situations than Carolina.

        If I was Carolina, I would have either traded him come draft day, make him play the one year on the tender or dealt with the situation after the draft. They had a tremendously valuable asset and they just gave it away for nothing.

  • McGeorge

    I wonder if the Panthers planned this all along? By “freezing” him until after free agency, they eliminated his market as the teams with the money to spend in free agency have already done so.

    • LM

      It’s the classic ego of the front office vs ego of the player situation.

      It wouldn’t shock me if Carolina’s front office has gotten so big headed that they pulled this type of tactic to try and burn Norman which very few if any wr’s did the last 2 years. It’s going to end up burning them in 2016. Especially when Mike Evans and Julio Jones are catching multiple td’s against them.

      Long term it makes sense sort of even though they got nothing back for what is arguably outside of Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, Their best asset.

  • jon

    How does this affect the compensatory pick calculations?

    If he signs a big contract with another team, did they essentially trade him for a 3rd/4th rounder?

    • McGeorge

      I think so, provided he signs before June. I believe that after June you don’t get compensatory picks.

  • theowl

    To Jon’s question… If the Niners sign Norman, it would cost them a 4th round comp pick next year. Which they have been tightly hanging on to. The Redskins are not currently in line for a comp pick next year.

    • McGeorge

      If Norman is paid the big $$$, it would cost them a 3rd round pick, not a 4th.

      • theowl

        Yes Carolina would get a third, but the Niners would lose the comp pick they would get from losing Boone. So anyone the Niners sign also costs them that pick, currently Nick is estimating that as a 4th. It’s their PRECIOUS!