Two years ago, a star player was set free by his team well after the big-money activity in free agency had died down. The Redskins moved quickly and signed DeSean Jackson just a few days after the Eagles released him.
Now the Panthers have rescinded the franchise tag on All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman well after the end of most free agent activity, will the Redskins make a play for him? According to a report, they will.
Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that the Redskins are among the four teams who have shown the most interest in signing Norman since he became an unrestricted free agent late yesterday afternoon. The others with a high level of interest are the 49ers, Steelers, and Dolphins. Schefter said that many other teams are also in the mix.
In many ways, this would be an uncharacteristic move for GM Scot McCloughan. He frequently has talked about the draft being the foundation of the team and that signing older (Norman will be 29 before the season is over), expensive (he is reported to be seeking a contract worth $16 million per year) free agents. Last month during the frenzy of free agent activity McCloughan and the Redskins showed no real interest in any big-money free agents. Why McCloughan would be interested in such a player now when there was no interest six weeks ago?
But Norman could be different. He plays with the kind of attitude that McCloughan loves. Premium cornerbacks are hard to come by and getting one will usually cost considerable resources, whether it’s draft picks or cap dollars. If you can justify spending big money on a free agent, cornerback is one where you can possibly justify it.
The Redskins certainly could make the cap work if they did want to make a bid for Norman. They have about $11.6 million in cap space right now. A $16 million contract could be structured so that it would take up only about $6 million in cap space in 2016. They could nearly cover that by releasing cornerback Chris Culliver, a move that would save $5.5 million against the cap.
Showing some preliminary interest in a free agent is a long way from signing him to a contract. We will see how this plays out over the next several days. One would think that the teams involved would want to get something with Norman wrapped up before the draft, which is a week from today, so that they have a handle on their needs.
It might be hard not to root for this to happen in terms of the potential entertainment value. The Redskins play the Panthers this year plus their annual two meetings with Odell Beckham Jr. You know that Norman will be fired up to play his old team and his battle with Beckham last years crossed the line from NFL to WWE.