Andrew Norwell, guard for the Carolina Panthers
Andrew Norwell was an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State University in 2014. After the Panthers offensive line struggled for the first half of the season, Norwell was made a starter in week seven. He helped to stabilize the Panthers offensive line, and Carolina went on to win a playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals that year.
In 2015, Norwell started 13 games and helped the Panthers offense have an extremely productive season. Cam Newton won the NFL MVP award and the Panthers appears in the Superbowl, ultimately losing to Denver. Norwell allowed only two sacks over the entire season and was Pro Football Focus’ ninth ranked guard in the entire NFL.
Norwell continued his strong play in 2016, but the Panthers took a step back and missed the playoffs. They would rebound by making the playoffs in 2017 though, partially due to Andrew Norwell having the best season of his career.
The Top Left Guard In Football
Andrew Norwell was the best left guard in the NFL this year. He was named to both the Associated Press and Pro Football Focus All-Pro First Teams. According to Pro Football Focus, Norwell not only didn’t allow a sack all season, he didn’t allow a single quarterback hit. He received a run blocking grade of 83.5, which was ninth best in the entire NFL among all guards, and a pass blocking grade of 90.7, best in the league.
Simply put, Norwell had a dominant season. He was far and away the best left guard in the league, and is likely to hit free agency this year as the Panthers have already given their right guard Trai Turner a large contract extension.
Will Command A Massive Contract
The biggest drawback to signing Norwell has nothing to do with his play on the field. It is extremely hard to find a flaw in his game. The issue is the money he will command on an open market.
Currently, the highest paid guards in the NFL are Kevin Zeitler ($12 million/year), Kelechi Osemele ($11.7 million/year) and Trai Turner ($11.25 million/year). Norwell will likely surpass Zeitler as the highest paid guard in the NFL.
The Lions are projected to have plenty of cap room this offseason, but they already invested a lot of money on the offensive line in free agency last year, signing right guard TJ Lang ($9.5 million/year) and right tackle Rick Wagner ($9.5 million/year). At some point, the Lions aren’t going to be able to keep signing high profile offensive linemen.
Should The Lions Sign Him?
In my opinion, signing Andrew Norwell should be to top priority in free agency for the Lions. Signing Norwell and letting Travis Swanson leave in free agency would make the Lions offensive line look like Taylor Decker at left tackle, Andrew Norwell at left guard, Graham Glasgow at center, TJ Lang at right guard and Rick Wagner at right tackle. On paper, that is a top offensive line in the league.
The Lions offensive line was bad in 2017. There were constant injuries, and it led to Matthew Stafford being sacked 47 times, more than any other season in his career. The Lions rushing offense also finished 32nd, last in the league.
Behind this new offensive line consisting of Norwell with Glasgow sliding over to his more natural position of center, one of the Lions weaknesses from last year could become a big strength in 2018.
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