In four NFL seasons, cornerback Josh Norman has made $3,284,448, according to Spotrac.com.
He’s 28 – turning 29 before the end of the 2016 season. Originally a fifth-round pick from Coastal Carolina, he was very good in 2014 and arguably the best corner in football in 2015, getting some Defensive Player of the Year attention, being named All-Pro and helping the Panthers get to the Super Bowl.
No player in the league deserves to change his pay grade more than Norman. And he owes it to himself and generations of little Normans to make sure he does.
This week, the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag they placed on Norman that would have paid him $13.9 million this year. Norman wanted a long-term deal. The Panthers weren’t meeting his wants. He was untethered.
Now, with teams circling him, the question in every market is, “Why not here?”
So why not the Patriots?
Because signing him to an offer he’d deem suitable is going to cost about $80M with at least $30M guaranteed. Those figures are ballparked based on the five-year, $62.5M ($28.8M guaranteed) deal the Giants recently gave to Janoris Jenkins, a good, 27-year-old player that’s not as good as Norman.
The Patriots are, according to our guy Miguel Benzan at Patscap.com, a little more than $5M under the current salary cap.
They have contract extensions to do with Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower in the next 10 to 15 months. All of those will be Pro Bowl-level deals. They also have a Hall of Fame tight end who may or may not be irked about the deal he agreed to a few years ago.
Bringing in Norman for the price he’d command would blow up the team’s pay structure. Could they do it? Yes. They could absolutely screw Butler by letting him play for the $600,000 this year and then – since he’s a restricted free agent next year – sign him to the high-tender offer and milk the undrafted kid with no leverage for the first four seasons of his NFL career. Then they could give Norman the money they would have paid Butler.
That would be cold.
And it still would mean that, whatever the team paid Norman would raise the financial antennae of Collins and Hightower. It’s incumbent on players to have a “where’s mine?” mentality in this sport and – if you’re asked to launch yourself into 30 car crashes every Sunday knowing that your good health is your best attribute after the 2016 season – wouldn’t you instinctively protect the ability to find yours?
It would be bad juju.
As for Norman deciding the honor and opportunity of playing for the Patriots would be worth taking less, no. He doesn’t fit that profile.
A guy such as Darrelle Revis, who needed a revitalization in 2014 and already had made a ton of money in this profession? Absolutely. A guy like Chris Long who was the No. 2 overall pick in 2008 and has made his $80M but never been in a postseason? Definitely.
A player at the height of his powers who’s made less in his career than what the Patriots paid Chad Ochocinco for one awful season in 2011?
No. This would not be prudent for him. And it wouldn’t be prudent for New England either. And both sides know it.