With just over a week left to go until the NFL Draft, the Eagles earlier today traded up to get the number two overall pick from the Browns. It turns out that might not even be the most surprising story of the day from the NFL, as later this afternoon the Carolina Panthers announced that they have rescinded the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, making him a free agent.
"After a number of conversations with Josh's agent we realized that a long-term deal was not attainable," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. "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."
Norman, a 29-year old cornerback who is among the very best in the league at his position, is reportedly looking for a deal that will pay him around $16 million per year. It sounds like the Panthers weren't going to give him that deal, but it's still a strange move to rescind the franchise tag. Even if no long-term deal was reached, they could have at least had him for this year or they could have signed and traded him as the draft approaches. Now, however, Norman is a free agent and can sign wherever he wants.
There are a lot of Colts fans wondering whether the team could or should sign Josh Norman now that he's on the open market, but it's not going to happen. The Colts have around $17.5 million in cap room remaining, and they will need a significant portion of that for Andrew Luck's coming mega-extension and for their draft picks. With Norman reportedly seeking around $16 million per year, you can see how that mathematically doesn't add up for the Colts. And while several have tried to suggest the Colts should cut several players to make the cap room, it's incredibly unlikely for that to happen. The Colts signed Patrick Robinson earlier this offseason to be their number two corner, and while he could slide to the slot if Norman was signed, it's unlikely the Colts would also look to go out of their way to create room for Norman after already signing Robinson this offseason. While it's unlikely that Norman will go to the Colts, he could still wind up in the AFC South, as the Jaguars and Titans have plenty of money left to spend. In that case, the Colts would have to go up against him twice per year.
Regardless, it's a stunning move to see Norman now become a free agent, and it will be fascinating to watch and see where he ends up.