In April of 2016, the Redskins inked Josh Norman to a five-year, $75 million deal, making the then 28-year-old the NFL's highest paid cornerback. On Friday, a little less than four years after signing his historic deal, Norman was released by the Redskins, as the former All-Pro will look to play for his third team in nine seasons.
Ron Rivera, the new head coach of the Redskins, coached Norman in Carolina during the height of both of their professional careers. In 2015, their final season together with the Panthers, Carolina went 15-1 during the regular season en route to an appearance in Super Bowl 50. Norman earned All-Pro honors that season, while Rivera won his second Coach of the Year award in three years. On Saturday, Rivera explained the decision to release Norman, who made just eight starts during his final season with the Redskins.
"The big thing is it's an opportunity for us to get younger," Rivera said, via NBC Sports' JP Finlay. "Josh is a veteran guy and again, just looking at the young guys that we have, we got to get these guys on the football field and more exposed."
Norman is 32 years old. While a youth movement may be underway in D.C., money is likely another reason why the Redskins are parting with Norman, who was slated to make $15 million next season. With Norman now off the books, the Redskins will save $12.5 million in cap space, money they will likely use to address the cornerback position in free agency, which begins on March 18. Two names to keep an eye on, according to Finlay's sources, are James Bradberry and Bashaud Breeland. Bradberry, who played under Rivera in Carolina, has been a starter in each of his four seasons with the Panthers. Last season, he recorded a career high three interceptions with 12 passes defensed. Breeland, who started his career with the Redskins before spending one season in Green Bay and another with Kansas City, picked off two passes with the world champion Chiefs last season while also returning one of his two fumble recoveries for a touchdown.
Speaking of the Chiefs, our Patrik Walker recently mentioned Kansas City as one of the teams Norman may sign with this offseason. The Panthers are also a possible option for Norman, who blossomed into one of the NFL's best defenders during his four years in Carolina.
Regardless of where he plays next, it does not appear that Norman is harboring any ill will towards the Redskins, who never finished higher than third place in the NFC East during Norman's time with the team.
"It's their choice, not mine," Norman said of the Redskins' decision. "Now I can start something new and fresh."