The reigning NFC-champion Carolina Panthers could begin offseason workouts next month without Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman.
Norman told the Observer recently that he’s not in any hurry to sign the franchise tag that will guarantee him $13.95 million in 2016. The Panthers have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with Norman, but the two sides remain far apart in their contract talks, league sources said Monday.
Unless there’s significant progress in the negotiations or Norman softens his stance about signing the tender, he could miss the voluntary workouts and organized team activities and possibly the mandatory June minicamp.
Teams can fine players for skipping minicamp. But if Norman hasn’t signed his franchise tender by the June 13 minicamp, he wouldn’t be under contract and wouldn’t be subject to fines.
Norman, 28, wants to be paid among the top corners in the league, which would put him in the $15 million to $16 million range annually. The Panthers offered him about $7.5 million a year before a 2015 season in which Norman intercepted four passes, earned his first All-Pro honors and finished with the best passer rating against average among corners.
Norman is among 10 players who were tagged before the start of free agency. Players who have been franchise-tagged have until Week 10 of the regular season to sign, after which they must sit out the remainder of the season.
When the Panthers applied the tag to former defensive end Greg Hardy two years ago, he signed it a few days later. But Norman seems content to sit tight.
“I’m comfortable where I’m at. Trust and believe,” Norman told the Observer earlier this month. “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.”