Negotiations between the Carolina Panthers and fourth-year cornerback Josh Norman stalled this week without the two sides reaching an agreement, sources told the Observer on Friday.
Given general manager Dave Gettleman’s policy of not negotiating during the season, Norman is expected to play out the final year of his contract and can become a free agent in March.
Norman, 27, said at the start of training camp he wants to stay with Carolina. He grew up in Greenwood, S.C., and played collegiately at Coastal Carolina before the Panthers drafted him in the fifth round in 2012.
But Norman also said last month he was willing to bet on himself to have a strong season and increase his value.
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“I bet on myself my whole life. Ever since I was a little boy I bet on myself,” Norman told reporters in Spartanburg. “Until now, I’m still betting on myself. Nothing’s going to change about that.
“I know what I bring to the table. I know what I’m going to do. It’s not something I’m going to lax or let off or something like that. My confidence level is high.”
The Panthers signed middle linebacker Luke Kuechly to a five-year extension worth $62 million Thursday. Kuechly was the fourth veteran to receive an extension since the 2014 season ended.
After spending 2013 in the coaches’ doghouse, Norman didn’t become a full-time starter last season until Week 5. But he quickly became the Panthers’ top cover corner, holding his own against the opponent’s No. 1 receiver each week.
Norman did some of his best work against Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, limiting the 6-4, 220-pound Pro Bowler to fewer than 60 receiving yards in both of the teams’ meetings.
Norman indicated at camp he considers himself among the top five corners in the league and wants to be paid as such.
Four corners currently make an average of $13.5 million to $14 million per year – Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and Joe Haden. The next tier of corners averages between $7 million and $10 million, a group that includes Antonio Cromartie and Chris Culliver.
Because he hit an escalator clause last season, Norman received a 59 percent raise and will make $1.54 million in base salary this year. He started 10 games in 2014, finishing with two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, 38 tackles and one forced fumble.
Norman was in the concussion protocol this week after sustaining a head injury against Pittsburgh last week in the final exhibition game. The Panthers rested eight starters against the Steelers, but decided to play Norman because they were thin at corner.
Norman was cleared by an independent neurologist Thursday and will start Sunday against the Jaguars.
If 2014 was Norman’s breakthrough season, this year could be his windfall season if he plays like he believes he’s capable.
“There’s only probably about 10 of us, probably less than that, in the league that can handle guys like Julio, the (Dez) Bryants, the Megatrons (Calvin Johnson),” Norman said in August.
“You don’t have that many. I would say only a handful. So you’ve got to take that into consideration. We are a rare breed.”