It’s very easy to look at the Redskins’ signing of Josh Norman and say that this is just the same old Redskins.
The Panthers, who must know what they’re doing because they just went to the Super Bowl, must have had good reasons for rescinding the franchise tag on the All-Pro cornerback. Dan Snyder’s team said, damn the torpedoes and proceeded full speed. Redskins One was dispatched to pick up Norman and his family, the word got out the organization wasn’t going to let the player leave without a contract. A high-dollar deal was hammered out quickly.
Critics of the deal will say that nothing has changed, that despite years of the Redskins proving you can’t buy a championship, here they go again.
And that line of reasoning is difficult to dismiss out of hand. However, the one difference in the equation now is GM Scot McCloughan.
He will talk to the media on Monday, in a previously scheduled news conference. It’s a lock that he will refer to Norman as “a football player”, a term he reserves for players who love the game, will work hard, and set an example for younger players to follow. If McCloughan is going to spend a good chunk of salary cap on a player, he had better be a “football player”.
And make no mistake about it, this was a McCloughan decision. He was seen leaving Redskins Park after Norman had put pen to paper smiling and giving a big thumbs up. The decision to bring Norman aboard may or may not work out in the long run but it seems clear that McCloughan is all in on it.
Since becoming the Redskins’ GM, McCloughan has talked a lot about the importance of building through the draft and using cap dollars to reward your own players rather than heaping big deals on players from the outside. The Norman move doesn’t fit in with that at all. Has McCloughan fallen in with a corporate culture that has reliance on free agency in its DNA? It goes back to signing Pat Fischer in the 1960’s, Dave Butz and John Riggins in the 70’s, Wilber Marshall in the ‘80’s, the string of big money big names after unfettered free agency started in 1993 and, most recently, the signing of DeSean Jackson two years ago.
In today's instant analysis media environment it's easy to say yes, the Redskins are back to their old, let's try to buy a title ways. Salary cap hell, a lineup loaded with aging vets who aren't worth their salaries, and piles of dead money after those veterans are cut to sign more free agents are right around the corner.
But it's going to take some time to find out if McCloughan has changed his ways. If signing Norman proves to be a one-time event, not repeated for at least a few more years, then it will be a case of McCloughan taking advantage of what he thought was a unique opportunity.
But if he grabs Snyder’s checkbook and goes big-game hunting next year, well, we’ll have to seriously look at changing our views. We will see how it plays out.