Cornerback Josh Norman and the Panthers were in intense negotiations on a new contract before the season began, but according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, both sides were too far apart to strike a deal. Norman, who had not started 16 games in a season before this year, opted to bet on himself -- and he's about to cash in.
The Panthers now have three options for their star defensive player, who is 28 years old. A franchise tag number would likely hit somewhere between $13.5 and $14 million for 2016, but a contract would cost much more. Currently, Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman highlight the market and both recently inked deals with more than $40 million in guaranteed money. Both also have more than 65 percent of their total money guaranteed.
That would seem to be the neighborhood Norman is walking into, even if he isn't considered as elite of a cornerback as Peterson or Sherman. With the salary cap on the rise, teams will have more spending money and will be desperate to land a lock down cornerback.
The good news for Norman is that the Panthers may finally be able to enter the bidding war. In the past, general manager Dave Gettleman said that the club was not ready to start shopping at Tiffany's. Gettleman was left a roster in turmoil but also a salary cap that needed fixing. He should have a little more than $20 million to spend this offseason without many other high priority free agents taking off.
Gettleman has been more than a capable executive during his time running the Panthers, so the team should feel confident that they won't end up slammed against the cap again, unable to place a team around Cam Newton. The question is: Will they have enough room to fit Norman and make him happy?