The Panthers just pulled $14 million off the table for one of the NFL’s best young players, and now he’s a free agent

josh normanEzra Shaw/GettyJosh Norman is now a free agent.

In a stunning move, Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is now a free agent, according to’s Gregg Rosenthal.

The Panthers had placed the $13.9 million franchise tag on the 28-year-old cornerback at the start of free agency, but the two sides were negotiating a long-term deal.

Norman had a breakout season in 2015 with four interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, as he helped lead a strong Panthers defense to the Super Bowl.

Panthers GM Dave Gettleman released a statement, essentially saying goodbye:

“After a number of conversations with Josh’s agent, we realized that a long-term deal was not attainable,” Gettleman said. “We thank Josh for all his contributions and truly wish him well.”

Rosenthal hypothesized that contract talks may have gotten personal. Norman didn’t attend the Panthers offseason workouts this week.

Wonder if it became personal in contract talks. Why wouldn’t they keep him one more year

— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) April 20, 2016

Going rates for elite cornerbacks are high, as seen in the cases of Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, and Richard Sherman, all of whom make in the $14-16 million range annually.

It is curious that the Panthers wouldn’t keep Norman on a one-year deal to retain his services. It’s possible he was threatening to hold out if he didn’t get a long-term deal. Either way, it’s rare for a franchise tag to be rescinded:

It’s rare for a franchise tag to be rescinded. Last times were Leroy Hill with Seahawks in 2009 & Corey Simon with Eagles in 2005..

— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) April 20, 2016

There have been questions about Norman’s true value, however. Some have wondered if he was a product of the Panthers’ scheme more than an elite cornerback. Gettleman had a cryptic quote about being a “shutdown” corner before the season as CBS’s Will Brinson pointed out:

Prescient quote to @BlackBlueReview from Dave Gettleman before the season:

— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) April 20, 2016

Regardless, Norman will be in high demand, and there are fewer teams with cap space now than two months ago. Whether he’s a truly elite cornerback or not, some team is likely going to pony up to give Norman the offer he seems to be seeking.

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