Panthers’ split with Josh Norman a wise, timely breakup

Josh Norman

Josh Norman no longer fit into the Panthers’ philosophy. Because they’re about more than just winning right now, the cornerback had to go right now.

“I don’t subscribe to the window theory. I don’t subscribe to the ‘we’re only one player away’ theory,” general manager Dave Gettleman said Thursday, backing up the team’sdecision to rescind Norman’s franchise tag. “Football is the truest of all team games. My belief is that sustained success can be accomplished by being thoughtful and intention with all roster decisions.”

Gettleman added that, during talks with Norman and his agent, the Panthers realized “there was a significant difference” in their thinking.

“The more we thought about it, the more flexibility that $14 million would give us.”

That’s what Norman would have made in 2016 had he signed his tender. That would have put him in the top four in salary at his position, a year after he was rated the No. 4 cornerback in the game by Pro Football Focus. Makes sense, but it wasn’t enough for the corner.

Norman wanted to be the highest-paid CB in the game — now and later — at around $16 million per season. The Panthers’ decision is an indication he wasn’t OK with accepting the one-year tender.

Gettleman didn’t become Sporting News’ executive of the year for 2015 by giving in and splurging on free agents. Norman turns 29 in December, and history shows corners start to lose effectiveness as starters after 30. As terrific as the Jets’ Darrelle Revis has been throughout his career, he showed a slide in his coverage ability last season after turning that age last summer.

No one ripped the Patriots for not bending over to bring back Revis, even on a one-year deal, after winning Super Bowl XLIX. The Panthers should get more credit for being just as smart with Norman after getting to Super Bowl 50.

This isn’t a situation like that of Richard Sherman and/or Patrick Peterson. Sherman got his five-year deal at age 26, before the Seahawks had to knock out their mega contract with franchise QB Russell Wilson. Peterson got his seven-year contract at only 23, before they gave a deal to Carson Palmer.

The Panthers locked up their true indispensable players last season, first Cam Newton and then Luke Kuechly. Norman getting caught behind that curve didn’t help.

From his years with the Giants, Gettleman knows that the better place to invest defensively is up front with the pass rush. Inside, tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei are due for their dollars soon. Defensive end Kony Ealy is in position for a breakout season. The Panthers still retain a dominant front seven that puts their secondary in a terrific position to succeed.

Norman is no doubt a great individual talent, but not throwing money at him gives the Panthers financial freedom to stack more critical positions in 2016 and beyond. Norman is a bigger need for a young, rebuilding team with that kind of money to spare. The Panthers, with their championship nucleus, can get away with not bringing him back.

Doubting Carolina on the field got old last season, and criticizing their plan upstairs is even more stale. In previous offseasons with Gettleman, there was early head-scratching about what the Panthers were not doing at offensive line and wide receiver … only to see them find solutions that helped them get to three straight NFC South titles and a conference crown.

Gettleman’s flexibility in funds shows all over the roster in steals such as Ted Ginn and Kurt Coleman. This year’s models include Brandon Boykin and Paul Soliai.

To that end, overcompensating Norman would not have been the Panthers’ norm. Gettleman realizing it to be irresponsible was wise.

Source: MSN Sports

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