If the Carolina Panthers have time, so does Josh Norman.
The All-Pro cornerback said Friday afternoon that he’s in no rush to sign his franchise tender that will guarantee his $13.952 million salary in 2016. He’s looking for a big second contract, and he and Carolina have until July 15 to make it happen.
“I’m comfortable where I’m at. Trust and believe,” Norman told the Observer. “If I’ve waited this long I can wait on them some more. I got no problem waiting. Waiting got me where I need to be at the end of the day.
“Trust me: waiting is my specialty.”
A former fifth-round pick, Norman made $1.54 million in the final year of his rookie deal last season. One might think he’d jump at being offered nearly $14 million for one season, but Norman has practiced patience before.
He did not accept Carolina’s contract offer last season of around $7 million per year. Now he wants to be paid alongside the top cornerbacks in the league, and if a deal isn’t reached by July 15, he’ll play under the franchise tag and be a free agent in 2017.
Being paid among the top corners would mean a deal like the one Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has. Revis signed a five-year deal worth $70 million (with $39 million guaranteed) last offseason. But Norman wouldn’t throw out a specific number even though it was clear he has one in mind.
“I’m talking about a number that defines and displays what I do each and every day; the work that I put in on the football field,” Norman said. “Now, we’re not talking about the work I put in on the practice field. That work is just extra. We’re not even talking about that. You don’t even have to put that in.
“But on Sundays? (Norman laughs.) That is the work. That’s what we do. And that demands a certain number. People pay to see that. People pay to see the show. Why am I any different than someone else when I’m trying to get mine? I’m not.”
The value of entertainment
Norman sees the billion-dollar business of the NFL and the salary cap rising each year. A former theatre major at Coastal Carolina, Norman is also familiar with the value of entertainment.
Norman regularly gets into character on the field for games, be it Batman or Maximus from Gladiator or another movie character. While that earned him a lot of press in his breakout 2015 season, it’s nothing new.
At his 2012 pro day at Coastal Carolina, Norman changed outfits before each drill so as to make the day fun and interesting for scouts and fans.
“Did it get me (drafted) any higher than what I should have been? Probably not,” Norman said. “But did I have fun? Darn right I did.”
Norman is continuing to have fun. Norman was in Portland, Ore., at adidas early in the week and went on nearly every ESPN show Thursday before returning to Charlotte. He’ll be in his hometown of Greenwood, S.C., on Saturday to put on another charity basketball event with Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
His roots are important to him. Sometimes, when Norman is speaking about himself, he uses the pronoun “we” as if it’s not just himself in the No. 24 jersey.
“We’re not losing a step,” Norman, 28, said in an apparent reference to his age, which is old for a cornerback looking for his second contract. “We’re not aging to the point where we’re old and gray and can’t cover anybody.
“We just started. We’re just getting going. And it’s exciting. And to the point where at the end of the Super Bowl, I felt like I could go a half-season more. I started getting withdrawals of not playing anymore so I had to go do something.”
Debunking the myths
Norman put two ideas to rest in the Friday interview. The first is the specter of a training camp holdout if he and the team don’t reach a long-term agreement by July 15. A holdout, he said, would do nothing for his contract situation or his teammates.
And Norman also debunked any theories about a “hometown discount.” Yes, he’s lived in the Carolinas his entire life, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers can pay him any less than someone who’s not from here.
“If you’re the best at what you do, like the best – it doesn’t matter if you’re a truck driver, salesman, reporter, server – don’t you think you should be paid like you’re the best at something?” Norman said. “Or are you going to take a pay cut and let a lesser person get the same as you? Would you? Even though it’s your hometown and all, I get it. That’s the question you’ve got to ask yourself.
“People wanted me to take the deal that was offered to me last year and thought I was crazy about it. That is your mentality. That is what you think. But for me and mine, I think something much higher.”
Thinking like an all-time great
On an ESPN show Thursday, Norman ranked himself in a tie with Revis for fifth all-time among all cornerbacks. He said Friday he was put on the spot and accidentally left out future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey.
Norman said he doesn’t believe he’s among the greatest of all time yet, but he has to think like he is.
“For me, I’ll be up there one day,” he said. “If I keep working the way I’m going, that’s where I want to be. That’s my whole take on that. Not to say I’m going to put myself up there right now, because I have a lot more work to do. But as far as me wanting to be up there, yeah that’s what we’re working towards. I’m not trying to disrespect anybody by doing that. That’s just my mentality.”
To get to that point will take time, and Norman knows it. He went from fifth-round pick in 2012 to being benched in 2013 to emerging the next season and finally, in 2015, becoming an All-Pro player.
This second contract is going to take some more time, and he can wait.
“There’s a method to the madness,” Norman said, “and I think I have a formula down pat for it.”