When news broke yesterday that Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman would become an unrestricted free agent after his franchise tag was surprisingly rescinded, it presented an interesting opportunity for the Pittsburgh Steelers: Should they try to pick up Norman and get him wearing the black and gold?
The Steelers’ secondary is obviously in need of some serious repair. Last season, Pittsburgh allowed an average of a little more than 270 pass yards per game, which put the team at 30th in the league. (Just in case you’ve forgotten: There are 32 teams in the NFL.)
In 2015, the All-Pro Norman had a career-high four interceptions, 56 tackles, 19 passes defended and two touchdowns. By comparison, Pittsburgh’s former DB Antwon Blake, who started every game in 2015 after getting a $1.5 million restricted free agent tender, was graded the second-worst cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Everyone expects the Steelers to try and target their secondary in the coming NFL Draft, but Norman’s availability presents an opportunity to solve the problem even before the draft rolls around.
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Steelers are one of eight or nine teams that have put out feelers about Norman (the 49ers seem to be the top contenders). The problem is that Pittsburgh has very limited cap space availability ($3.5 million) for the cornerback, who seems to be looking for a deal in the $16 million-a-year range. (That kind of money would make Norman the league’s highest-paid cornerback; the New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis is set to make $14 million in 2016.)
Niners, with a ton of cap space, among teams that called about Josh Norman, per source. Others incl. Bucs, Steelers, Dolphins.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) April 21, 2016
So, if the Steelers did want Norman, it would require some serious restructuring and potentially even cutting a player or two. A possible player on the chopping block could be Lawrence Timmons, which would save Pittsburgh $8 million in cap space. Still, that doesn’t seem to be nearly enough for Norman’s high asking price.
Norman is the kind of player every team wants. He’s good. Really, really good. And it’s rare that a player of his ability becomes a free agent this late in the preseason. He’s the kind of player who excites every single NFL head coach and GM and who can immediately fix an ailing secondary.
But, he doesn’t make sense for the Steelers. Not only does Pittsburgh not have the money, it doesn’t make sense to get rid of a guy like Timmons, who has been a key player for the Steelers in what has become a stellar linebacking corps.
So, Norman won’t realistically be wearing a Steelers uniform any time soon. Pittsburgh fans should just pray to the football gods that he ends up on a team the Steelers don’t play too often.
Image credit: Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports