The de facto release of Josh Norman by the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday has dropped a top-tier free agent onto the market right before the NFL Draft.
Norman became an unrestricted free agent when the Panthers removed the franchise tag on Wednesday afternoon. While there is less money and cap space available now than at the start of free agency, there are still plenty of teams with enough cap space and flexibility to entertain the thought of signing the All-Pro cornerback.
According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, eight or nine teams have already called about Norman. Teams interested include the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 49ers have over $52 million in salary cap space and could easily accommodate any salary for Norman. However, the Steelers only have $3.5 million in cap space and would have some work to do to bring Norman on board.
It’s rare that a player of Norman’s caliber is available on the free agent market this late in the process. It could change the draft as well. Teams that were expecting to have to draft a cornerback may decide to look at Norman as a proven veteran option instead. And the Panthers may have to look for a cornerback now as they clearly seem to have turned the page completely on Norman altogether.