Let the bidding begin.
In a shocking turn of events, the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, making him a free agent, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Wednesday afternoon via Twitter.
"The Panthers have rescinded the franchise tag offer on CB Josh Norman. He's a free agent. Wow."
Wow is right
This was unexpected. Out of nowhere. Most teams place the franchise tag on the guy and keep him around for the entire year, giving them time to work a deal up and keep the player long-term. For Carolina, it seems that no deal was close and the Panthers decided to let Norman go rather than keep him around for a year negotiating and waiting.
Here is a quote from Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman on the Josh Norman decision, according to NFL reporter Mike Garafolo.
"After a number of conversations with Josh's agent we realized that a long-term deal was not attainable," Gettleman said. "We have decided to rescind the Franchise Tag freeing Josh to immediately become a UFA. We thank Josh for all his contributions and truly wish him well."
Wow. Just wow. No long-term deal close, so instead of kicking the tires and bartering for a whole season the Panthers move on just like that. Garafolo also reported that Norman's agent was looking to get $16 million per year or more. With the franchise tag, Norman would've been paid just "south" of $14 million, Garafolo tweeted shortly after the news broke.
Compared to the rest
Top-tier corners Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis are paid approximately $14 million a season, so Norman's agent believed he deserved to be paid more than both of those guys, each of whom has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy sometime in the past few years.
There is high risk for Josh Norman. Norman is entering the season at age 28, and will turn 29 in December. For a corner looking for a long-term deal, with that much desired money, that's a big risk for Carolina to take on. Norman did make the Pro Bowl last season, along with First-team All Pro, PFWA Most Improved Co-Player of the Year, and PFWA All-NFL and All-NFC team as well.
Norman was lights out in 2015, starting all 16 games for the NFC Champion Panthers while recording a career-high four interceptions. The four picks might not be mind-blowing, but that's mainly because opposing quarterbacks stayed away from Josh's side.
In his fifth season from Coastal Carolina, Norman absolutely played like one of the top corners in the league. But does he deserve a $16 million deal? The Panthers aren't too sure, and Norman is now an unrestricted free agent.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport shared his thoughts via Twitter.
"The player many believe is the best cornerback in the game--Josh Norman--is now a free-agent. In April. Unreal circumstance."
What's next for Norman
This is huge, to say the least. Norman still has at least a few good years left, and teams should be barking up his tree any minute. A few teams who have cap space and were in the market for corners earlier in the offseason are as follows: LA Rams, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, and the Tennessee Titans, to name a few.
The Titans traded away the top pick, and need secondary help. The Rams moved up to number 1 overall, and adding a talent like Norman to a team that's just at the start of relocating would be a huge get for Jeff Fisher's bunch.
It's safe to say Norman has a fair share of suitors, even at this point, just a week before the NFL Draft.
Did anybody see this coming? Apparently not, but Josh Norman, yes the same Josh Norman that tangoed with Odell Beckham Jr., is an unrestricted free agent.
Get him while you can.