Contract talks between the Panthers and Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman have stalled, but general manager Dave Gettleman says he doesn’t believe the situation will become a distraction for a team coming off a Super Bowl season.
Meeting with Charlotte reporters Tuesday at the NFL’s annual meetings, Gettleman said he’d like to get a long-term deal done with Norman. But in the next breath, Gettleman conceded he and head coach Ron Rivera are fine if Norman plays the 2016 under the franchise tag the Panthers placed on him this month.
“Ron and I are very comfortable with it,” Gettleman said. “We talked about it at length.”
Norman has yet to sign his franchise tender, which will pay him a guaranteed $13.95 million this season.
He’s indicated he’s in no rush to sign it and there’s a good chance he’ll miss the Panthers’ offseason workouts and organized team activities. Players have until Week 10 of the regular season to sign their franchise tag, after which they must sit out the remainder of the season.
Gettleman reiterated his comments from the combine, calling Norman a pro and saying he’s not worried about the situation turning divisive.
“I don’t think there’ll be any issues. He and I had a great conversation before I put the tag on him,” Gettleman said. “He understands where I’m at. I understand where he’s at. We respect each other’s stance and we’ll just see if we can get (it) done.”
Gettleman has talked with Norman’s agent this week, although the two sides remain far apart in their negotiations, according to a league source.
Norman, 28, wants to be paid among the top corners in the league with an average of $15 million to $16 million. The Panthers offered Norman a deal worth about $7.5 million a year last summer.
Under the terms of the franchise tag, the Panthers have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement.
“I have to make decisions based on the best interests of the Panthers. We have a philosophy moving forward,” Gettleman said. “We’ve tagged Josh. We have the intention of having him play for us and we’d like to get a long-term deal done. Time will tell. Contracts get done when they’re supposed to get done.”
Gettleman has not signed a defensive back to a lucrative deal since joining the Panthers three years ago. But he said that is not reflective of his approach to constructing a secondary, and wishes he’d signed free safety Mike Mitchell to a longer deal than the 1-year deal the Panthers gave him in 2013.
Mitchell left for Pittsburgh in free agency after one season in Charlotte.
“It’s just kind of the way it’s worked out,” said Gettleman. “Our first year I did those 1-year deals so we lose Teddy. Teddy Ginn leaves. We lose Mike Mitchell. In hindsight I wish I’d done two-year deals at that point.”
In addition to Norman’s situation, Gettleman said he’s trying to sign a nickel corner.
Bené Benwikere has experience at nickel, but the Panthers are moving him outside this season. Robert McClain played a lot of nickel with Atlanta.
Gettleman said the Panthers are still in talks with defensive tackle Kyle Love about re-signing the free agent.
The Panthers already signed free agent defensive tackle Paul Soliai to back up starters Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei on the interior of the line. But with a draft that is deep at defensive tackle, Gettleman might not be done loading up at the position.
“You can never have too many good players,” he said. “If the defensive tackle’s the best guy, the best guy’s staring you in the face, he’s the best guy.”
As for Norman, Gettleman would not say whether he believes the All-Pro corner would likely play under the franchise tag this year. Norman, 28, is on the older side for a player hitting free agency for the first time.
But Gettleman said age is all relative.
“Dwan Edwards was 35 taking snaps,” said Gettleman, referring to the recently released defensive tackle. “To me it’s about can he play or not? That’s my focus.”