by Terry McCormick
This week an unexpected turn of events took place in the NFL free agent market when the Carolina Panthers pulled the franchise tag off cornerback Josh Norman on Wednesday, making him free to negotiate with any team.
There were initial reports and speculation that the Tennessee Titans were among the team to express interest in the star cornerback.
But digging a little bit beneath the surface, it was easy to see that Norman and the Titans were not truly the right fit for each other.
Let’s look at it this way. Would Norman, who emerged last year as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks in helping the Panthers to the Super Bowl, make the Titans a better team if he signed on the dotted line to become a defensive starter? No doubt he would, and the Titans would be smart to at least inquire as to Norman’s interest level in the team.
But much in the same way that general manager Jon Robinson correctly figured that the Titans will be better off in the long run by trading the first pick for a boatload of choices from the Rams, how much would the expensive addition of Norman really fit in the way he is remaking the Tennessee roster?
Yes, with more than $29 million under the cap, the Titans could have paid Norman close to what he wants and make their defense much better in the process. But giving one player $16 million a year to join a rebuilding football franchise doesn’t really sound like Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood to me.
There are three ways players look at free agency.
The first is the opportunity to play. Lots of times career backups just want an opportunity to start. In Norman’s case, he doesn’t have to worry about that wherever he signs,
The second is the opportunity to win. Being that one player who can help put a team over the top like Peyton Manning was with the Broncos or Darrelle Revis when he joined the Patriots. Quite frankly, the Titans are not yet in a position to offer that to a player like Norman. His presence might help turn a three-winTitans team into a six or seven-win team, but it’s unlikely he would make them an 11-win team in 2016. Also, Norman is already 28 years old, and by the time Robinson has overhauled the team in a year or two, will Norman still be an elite commodity or just paid like one?
The final thing players look at is big pay day. And even though the Titans could oblige Norman in this area, something tells me they wouldn’t. Robinson is looking for team-first players who will check their egos at the locker room door. And usually, the bigger the stakes, the bigger the ego can be.
Josh Norman with the Titans? It just wasn’t the right place or the right time for that to happen.