The Panthers don’t have too many free agent decisions to make, but they have one big one.
And it’s worth remembering that General Manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday he’s “not afraid” of using the franchise tag.
He wasn’t specifically talking about cornerback Josh Norman but he didn’t have to be, as the cornerback who became a star this season is the only one on their roster it’s a consideration for.
“I’ve used it before,” Gettleman said, via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. “I’m not shy, I’m not afraid of it. After we evaluate everything, we’re going to do what we think is in the best interests of the Carolina Panthers.”
The tag may be the most sensible answer for the Panthers, even though it would cost them north of $13 million for a year. But because Norman’s 28, there’s a danger in doing a long-term extension now as well. The two sides talked about a deal last offseason, but Norman wasn’t biting on an offer of around $7 million a year, betting on himself.
He picked off four passes and returned two of them for touchdowns in the first month of the season, making himself a star for a team which would go 15-1. Now, the former fifth-round pick could join some of the top earners at his position if the Panthers don’t prevent him from reaching the market.
Gettleman can only hope it would work out better than the last time he used the tag — on Greg Hardy in 2014. That was a $13.1 million donation to domestic violence awareness, as Hardy played one game before going on the commissioner’s exempt list.
And while the tag makes sense, Gettleman wasn’t going to get into declaring it a necessity, as he prepares to make tough decisions this offseason for a team that should contend for the next few years, but needs upgrades in pass-rush and the rest of the secondary.
“I don’t want to go there,” Gettleman said when asked about Norman’s value. “You’re never only one player away. You’re not. I know you people look at me like I have brain damage but you’re not. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.”
They found out the hard way last time.