In 2016, the Redskins made Josh Norman the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL when they signed him to a five-year, $75 million contract. Now that deal is beginning to look like an albatross that the Redskins may want to terminate as soon as next year.
When the contract was signed it looked like the Redskins were getting a good deal. Norman was coming off of an All-Pro season with the Carolina Panthers, who surprised everyone when they decided to rescind the franchise tag they had put on him. He was a playmaker who had intercepted four passes, returned two of them for touchdowns, and forced three fumbles.
However, Norman would turn 29 late in his first season playing under that mega contract. He had a great contract season but prior to that, he had spent three seasons struggling at times and getting benched for stretches of games as well. These facts were glossed over by the team.
In his 34 games in Washington, Norman has played well most of the time. He has continued to force fumbles, collecting two in each of his two full seasons in Washington. But his last interception came on December 24 of the 2016 season. He got two picks of Matt Barkley that day in Chicago. His other interception for the Redskins came earlier that year. It was off of Cody Kessler of the Browns. Norman has had none in his past 19 games.
While the Redskins wanted to see more game-changing plays for their investment of $15 million per season, it was acceptable as long as he continued to shut down opposing receivers. According to Pro Football Focus, there were just three games last year when he allowed more than 41 yards passing against him. In six games he allowed 25 or fewer yards.
But it has been a different story this year, particularly in the last two games. Against the Packers and Saints, he has allowed a total of 164 yards and three touchdowns.
He hit rock bottom against the Saints. On the first defensive series, he committed a holding call that negated a third-down stop. The New Orleans drive continued and ended in the end zone. As Drew Brees continued to torch the Redskins’ secondary Norman was caught freelancing and out of position all too often. It got to the point where Jay Gruden decided to bench him for the first series of the second half. Norman went back into the game after Greg Stroman, his replacement, got burned for a touchdown.
It’s early and things could turn around but with a quarter of the season in the books, it’s fair to consider what to do with Norman after the season is over. His cap charge goes down from almost $17 million this year to $14.5 million in 2019. That’s better but it’s still high. Based on the contracts in force right now Norman would be fifth on the list of the highest 2019 salary cap charges for cornerbacks. If he’s not playing up to that deal it will be a problem for a team that is tight on cap space next year.
They could elect to release him. They would incur a dead cap charge of $6 million but save a net of $8.5 million in cap space. If they want to spread out the dead cap charge they could designate him as a post-June 1 cut and create $11.5 million in additional 2019 cap space while pushing $3 million of dead cap to 2020.
An alternative might be to talk to Norman and attempt to renegotiate his contract, perhaps something that would reduce his $11 million salary in exchange for some incentives that would allow him to earn some of it back. It would then be up to Norman to decide if he wants to take the pay cut or if he would rather take his chances hitting the free agent market at the age of 31.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- NFC East: Are the Redskins the best of a bad bunch?
- Redskins vs. Panthers: First look
- D-Hall’s reaction: Norman must “get back to basics”
- Gruden reaction: “An absolute embarrassment”