Following months of debate regarding whether Josh Norman is a shutdown corner worthy of being paid top dollar, the Washington Redskins helped the Panthers end any and all discussion on the matter this week when they made Norman the highest paid corner in the NFL.
According to this article from Over The Cap, Norman is now the highest paid cornerback basically every way it can be measured – APY, total value, amount guaranteed or amount fully guaranteed. Observers can say what they want about Norman’s game of chicken with Panthers front office personnel regarding the tag, but I’m having trouble finding a way in which anyone could say that Norman did poorly for himself. In summary, the Norman contract looks like this:
The 2016 and 2017 salaries for Norman are fully guaranteed, to go along with the $15 million signing bonus that he received, making the full guarantees of the contract $36.5M. In addition, he also has the ability to earn $500,000 in per game active roster bonuses in each of 2017 and 2018.
At first glance the loser in this game may appear to be the Panthers, as their situation at cornerback could easily be viewed as less than desirable, with Bene Benwikere, Brandon Boykin and Robert McClain. However, there is still plenty of time between now and training camp for the team to add to the position through the draft, or even add from the remaining free agents, such as Antonio Cromartie, Josh Wilson or even Cary Williams.
Norman landed this contract later in free agency and at roughly the same age as Russell Okung signed his contract earlier this offseason. There is less than ten weeks of age difference between Okung and Norman, and yet Norman signed a contract that dwarfs Okung’s. Yes, they play different positions. Yes, Okung is dealing with an injury situation, and yes there was an unexpected mad rush to sign Norman when the opportunity became available.
However, what this situation shows is what can happen when there is an agent skilled at the art of negotiation and playing high-stakes chicken is involved. Perhaps Okung should reach out to Norman and inquire if his agent is accepting new clients. Norman’s agent obviously had no problem garnering interest and securing a large contract for his client several weeks into free agency, and perhaps if Okung had been utilizing professional representation he could have waited and secured himself a significantly better contract than what he did.
Norman claimed to have been blindsided by the Panthers removing the franchise tag and creating the feeding frenzy that resulted in Norman becoming the highest paid cornerback in the history of the NFL, but I would guess that Norman’s agent had at least been given warning that if an agreement could not be reached they would rescind the franchise tag. Perhaps this was never relayed to Norman, as it easily could have been interpreted as standard negotiating tap dancing and posturing on the part of the Panthers, but at this point I’m sure Norman does not mind and is happy with the work his agent has performed on his behalf.
The Norman signing should help Washington solidify their secondary in the coming seasons, but it will use up valuable cap space both this season and in the future. They now have Norman and DeAngelo Hall in place for both this season and next, however, Hall will turn 33 this fall and cutting him would free up some cap space as he is closer to the end of his contract than the beginning. According to Over The Cap, once Norman’s cap number for this season is included, the Redskins have just under $4.3 million in cap space, and approximately $39M in estimated cap space for 2017. That may seem like plenty of cap space for 2017 at the moment, but it does not include Kirk Cousins nor any kind of extension for DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, who are bothset to be free agents after the coming season. Scot McCloughan has his work cut out for him, but I’m sure he’s happy to be in his current position, even if he is working for Dan Snyder. Can it really be worse than working for Jed York?
These are the types of moments that allow Seahawks fans to sit back and appreciate what Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built in their six plus years in Seattle, and to appreciate the roster the team has assembled. In particular, John and Pete have not used the Franchise or Transition Tags on a player since their arrival. Rather than waiting until the last minute to extend players, they have identified their core players and extended the majority of these prior to the expiration of their contracts. This not only allows the team to break up the cap hit among an extra season, it allows both sides to avoid the animosity and back and forth that can come with contentious negotiations.
The re-signings of both Jeremy Lane and Jermaine Kearse this past offseason are the rare exceptions to the team’s MO when it comes to extending players prior to the expiration of their contract, but the team was in the current position as a result of limited cap space following the dead money hit from the Harvin contract and extending both Wilson and Wagner prior to last season. The team currently has less than $3.5M in dead money counting against its 2016 cap, though that number will rise once Marshawn gets around to filing his retirement paperwork and the team decides whether to split his dead money between 2016 and 2017 or take it all this coming season.
Going forward the team’s cap space position looks much cleaner as the combination of frugal spending and rising cap combine to place the team in a highly competitive cap position relative to many other team. Thus, while the team will obviously be forced to make decisions on players as their contracts expire, including Doug Baldwin and Christine Michael as the 2016 season moves on, the people in charge have shown their skill and expertise in this matter, and they should be able to avoid the type of situation The Norman Agreement brought about in Carolina.