Three And Out
In a surprising move Wednesday – perhaps even more surprising than the Browns-Eagles trade – the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on Josh Norman, making him a free agent. Reports have surfaced that Carolina is unlikely to try and sign him on the open market. Supposedly, Norman was seeking a contract in the ballpark of Darrell Revis’s $16M/year deal, and he and the team were very far apart. According to his agent, several teams have already contacted him to set up visits with the corner. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up, but there are several implications the announcement could have on the Lions.
With $15.6M in cap room after you account for draft picks, the Lions could be considered, at least financially, as candidates to sign Josh Norman. However, it’s not that simple. Signing the former would significantly impact Quinn’s long term plan for the team. Despite his recent emergence, Josh Norman is 28 years old, and will turn 29 before the season’s over. Signing him to a long-term deal isn’t wise, because cornerbacks tend to fall off after they hit thirty. Even on a four-year deal, he would turn 32 before his contract is up. Furthermore, it drastically affects our ability to resign Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay. It’s likely that we would only be able to retain one of those pieces. It’s a safe guess to say that Ansah and Slay will command $25M+ by themselves, and rolling over whatever cap room we have left will go a long way towards accomplishing that. As fun as it is to envision Slay and Norman terrorizing quarterbacks in the NFC North, we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Don’t expect the Lions to contend for Norman’s services.
Speaking of Darius Slay, this situation could throw a monkey wrench in any potential contract extension he might receive. Detroit was supposedly in preliminary talks with Slay on an extension at the combine, but nothing got done. Any discussion that’s currently ongoing will now be tabled until Slay’s camp sees what Josh Norman commands on the open market. If Norman gets overpaid, or paid how much he wants, it could lead to an increase in asking price from Slay. As detailed earlier, Norman is looking for something in the ballpark of $15M/year. That could definitely reset the market, which is currently around $12M/year. With the fifth-year option on Ziggy Ansah likely to be picked up, Slay could be a candidate for the franchise tag this next offseason. Norman’s deal will factor into that, as well. On the bright side, this could all expedite the negotiation process with Slay.
One of the leading candidates in the Josh Norman sweepstakes will be the Bears. Ryan Pace has made it a priority to overhaul their defense this offseason in the midst of their conversion to the 3-4. They’ve already signed Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks, and Jerrell Freeman and still have $22M in cap to spare. Many 3-4 defenses run a zone blitz scheme, which would be perfect for Josh Norman, who excels in zone coverage. Sources have said that he would like to play in California, and San Francisco, another team that runs a 3-4, has over $50M in cap space. If I had to guess, they’re the leading contenders to sign him, but I fully expect Chicago to push hard to sign him.