Norman reportedly wanted $16 million a year on a new contract, and it was believed the Panthers would not be giving him that much money.
Carolina GM Dave Gettleman confirmed as much by saying a long-term deal was "not attainable" with Norman.
"After a number of conversations with Josh's agent we realized that a long-term deal was not attainable," general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. "We have decided to rescind the franchise tag freeing Josh to immediately become a UFA. We thank Josh for all his contributions and truly wish him well."
There's definitely something odd about this transaction, besides the obvious "well THAT came out of nowhere" move related here. There's a very good chance the Panthers simply weren't willing to deal with the distraction Norman might bring with no long-term deal.
Context from Panthers source: Panthers didn’t think looming distraction of an inevitable holdout was worth the one-year, $14 million lease.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) April 20, 2016
Gettleman previously hinted (rather strongly) on his feelings about cornerbacks, saying he doesn't believe shutdown corners are real.
"Shutdown corner is a misnomer. There’s very few of them. It’s so hard. You can’t cover forever," Gettleman told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. "If there’s no pass rush, there’s no shutdown corners."
The Panthers also have a couple of high-profile defensive tackles in Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei due for extensions soon. It would be the ultimate Gettleman move to use Norman's cap space to pay the "hog mollies" after releasing a big-name cornerback into the free agent market.
It's possible something else emerges from this scenario where we learn more about the two sides' feelings, but right now it looks like a simple disagreement over value.