The Carolina Panthers this afternoon announced they have rescinded the exclusive franchise tag off cornerback Joshn Norman. That makes the Pro Bowl cornerback an unrestricted free agent immediately.
He is able to talk with any NFL team. He is free to sign with whatever NFL team is willing to pay him close to what he's asking.
And it makes sense the teams that will show the most interest immediately are teams that need a very, very good NFL cornerback ...
...Like the Miami Dolphins.
I reached out to a handful of Dolphins sources to ask if there would be interest in Norman. Only one of them answered via text. The text read, "Can't say yes for sure. But it would be wrong to say no."
Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel, teammates with Norman at Coastal Carolina, tweeted, "Wow," in response to the news.
The Panthers are parting ways and, unless there are underlying reasons beyond money, it has to be that Norman has wanted to make upwards of $16-$17 million per season to sign a long term deal. That is obviously too rich for Carolina and so the defending NFC Champions are moving on.
The Dolphins currently have $19.5 million in salary cap space, per the NFLPA.
If this is going to be an all out bidding war for a player, the Dolphins likely won't win.
The San Francisco 49ers have $52.6 million in cap space. Jacksonville has $52.5 million in cap space. The Cleveland Browns have $40.3 million in cap space.
Now, if Norman is going to only entertain teams with a chance to win, that changes the dynamic with those teams. But that does not help the Dolphins either, as they haven't been to the playoffs or managed a winning season since 2008.
This does not definitely mean the Dolphins would be in on Norman. There are many things to consider beyond money and his interest. There's scheme fit. There's chemistry fit because Norman is a very outgoing player.
But if the Dolphins want to go hard here, they absolutely could find a way. Remember, they can restructure center Mike Pouncey's contract, turning base salary into guaranteed money and save up to $6.5 million in salary cap space this year. The team could cut Cameron Wake, who is in the final year of his contract, and save $8.4 million.
But this is more than just about cap space.
This is also about hard money. The Dolphins do indeed have an annual cash expenditure budget for player salaries. They expect to spend between $115-$120 million in cash in 2016.
Adding a huge contract such as Norman's would likely put the Dolphins beyond their budget for this season. And so owner Stephen Ross would have to be included in any conversation about interest in Norman because it is, after all, his money the team would be spending.
Norman is 6-foot and 195 pounds. He was a Pro Bowl player for the first time in 2015. He has seven career interceptions, including four last season. His body of work in 2015, per ProFootballFocus.com, is impressive:
He held DeAndre Hopkins to two catches for 24 yards on seven targets
He held Vincent Jackson to two catches for 31 yards on six targets, picking off one pass.
He held Mike Evans to one catch for 15 yards on five targets in the other meeting with the Bucs.
He held T.Y. Hilton to one catch for 15 yards on three targets, breaking up the other two.
He held Dez Bryant to one catch for six yards on five targets.
–Held Julio Jones to six catches for 55 yards on eight targets across two games.
The Dolphins have one experienced starting cornerback in Byron Maxwell. They were expected to add one and perhaps two cornerbacks in the April 28-30 draft. The team has said multiple times this offseason it is not one player away.
Away from what, who knows.
The Dolphins have also been careful not to make any significant moves in free agency with the idea of adding multiple compensatory draft picks in 2017 after losing Olivier Vernon, Rishard Matthews and others in free agency. Big contract free agents are judged against the contracts signed by players who left in a complex formula.
That formula becomes moot after May 12, but it is unclear if Norman would want to wait to sign for another 2-3 weeks.
The Dolphins currently have an inauspicious group of cornerbacks on the roster.