Instead of getting into a bidding war, the Carolina Panthers bid adieu to All-Pro cornerback, Josh Norman. As you may have heard, the team rescinded his franchise tag offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. For the 3rd straight offseason, the Panthers have boldly jettisoned an impact player from their roster.
Panthers’ General Manager, Dave Gettleman, has proven that he is not afraid of unpopular decisions. He cut Steve Smith Sr., who was a 13-year stalwart at wide receiver. The move was not well received by fans. How did Gettleman follow this? He cut another longtime Panthers’ staple, Deangelo Williams, the next offseason.
So, given that context, are we really stunned by the decision to let Josh Norman hit the open market? More importantly, as Panthers’ fans, are we concerned?
Considering the breakout season Norman had, as he bottled up elite NFL receivers, along with the Panthers’ already thin secondary, the easy answer is, YES! Be concerned. However, allow me to caution us all, before the panic gets too deeply rooted.
Remember, how EVERYONE thought the Panthers’ would regress after Steve Smith was released. Who would Cam throw to? How would they score? The result? Carolina won the NFC South Division and a wild card playoff game. Then, after Deangelo Williams got his walking papers, there were questions about the reliability of Johnathan Stewart, who was often injured. The result? Johnathan Stewart had a Pro Bowl season. Cam Newton was voted NFL MVP. The team went 15-1, won the NFC South again, and made the Super Bowl.
My point? While this latest move makes me squirm a little, I’m going to learn from recent Panthers’ history by waiting to see how the team compensates. There’s been a lot of chatter about Josh Norman being overrated or a ‘system corner,’ but all I know is quarterbacks were not successful throwing the ball to his side in 2015. His production will certainly be missed.
But, it seems Norman may have been becoming a distraction for the team. He recently discussed his contract situation on various media platforms. His latest ploy was to skip the team’s upcoming voluntary workouts. The organization took a preemptive approach before this got ugly. The focus is on team not the individual. Clearly, the Panthers believe that an All-Pro defensive back is not worth $16 million per year and they can withstand losing him. It helps having a dominant front 7 on defense, led by All-Pro, Luke Keuchly.
The Carolina Panthers have 5 primetime games in 2016. A tough schedule. Higher expectations. And they won’t have the element of surprise. For all of our sakes, as fans, I hope Dave Gettleman is right again about his latest gamble.