When Josh Norman suddenly became a free agent on Wednesday, after the Carolina Panthers rescinded his franchise tag, it gave some team a rare opportunity to add a blue-chip player in late April, before the draft.
The Washington Redskins won the race.
After hosting Norman all day Friday, the Redskins got him to agree to a contract despite a reported late push from the New Orleans Saints. Multiple reports announced Norman was signing with the Redskins, and Norman himself announced
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported it was a monster deal: five years, $75 million and $50 million in guarantees. Not bad for Norman, who is 28 and had made about only $2.2 million on his rookie deal before this contract.
It has been a while since the Redskins signed a huge free agent, though it was commonplace early in team owner Daniel Snyder’s regime. It is a boost for the defending NFC East champions. It also means that New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Norman can continue their feud twice a year as division rivals.
It’s rare for such an elite free agent to hit the market six weeks after free agency started. Had the Panthers never put the franchise tag on Norman (and in hindsight, they should have gone that route and invested his $14 million slot on free agents who can help in 2016), Norman probably would have been the No. 1 player on the open market when free agency started.
Norman was an All-Pro corner last year, giving up very little to opposing receivers. There are some questions about his ability to fit in any scheme, because he played mostly in a zone defense in Carolina, but he’s still an outstanding player who should contribute in any scheme.
Carolina says it rescinded the franchise tag with Norman because a long-term deal would never get done. The Panthers didn’t want to pay Norman top dollar, considering their philosophy is to invest in pass rush and not secondary. Other teams put a high priority on cornerbacks, so it was no surprise when teams like the Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers immediately showed interest.
The Redskins emerged as a frontrunner soon after that, and held off a late charge to get perhaps the best free agent to change teams in 2016.