By now every Steeler fan has heard Josh Norman has become a free agent. Last night the Carolina Panthers removed the franchise tag on Norman, allowing him to sign with any team he chooses. Clearly this kind of player is exactly what Pittsburgh needs to help sure up a weak secondary. One small problem though…….money. Josh Norman wants to be paid as the top cornerback in the NFL. That title is currently held by Darrelle Revis, who signed for 5 years at $70 million with the New York Jets. Right now the Steelers are roughly 3.5 million under the salary cap, which is about 13 million short of what it would take to get a deal done. Not to mention Pittsburgh never operates in the big splash free agent business. So while it’s highly unlikely that this happens, let’s take a look at what it would take and the ramifications of signing Josh Norman.
The first step of course is freeing up room under the salary cap to make this signing. The Steelers have some options there. The most obvious one would be to attempt to redo Lawrence Timmons‘ deal, which is set to count $15 million against the cap this season. The Steelers would need to add years without adding any additional money to make this work. Pittsburgh also has the option of cutting Timmons, thereby saving about half the money under the cap. Other players you could be renegotiated are Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, and Cameron Heyward. Another likely scenario would be to sign guard David DeCastro to a new extension, leaving a much smaller cap hit this season.
Now that they have the money to sign Norman, what would the team look like next season and for seasons to come. First off, we could wipe corner off all the mock drafts that have been out there. With last years second round pick Senquez Golson, William Gay, Ross Cockrell, and now Josh Norman the Steelers are set at corner for years to come. Pittsburgh would now be free to draft other needs like defensive end, edge rusher, and safety with their early selections. The problem going forward will be the salary cap. Having a big portion of the salary cap taken up by Josh Norman and Ben Roethlisberger means Pittsburgh would have to sacrifice other key players. Jarvis Jones’ 5th year option would certainly not be picked up, meaning he would most likely be gone after this season. There’s no way the Steelers could afford to sign L’e’Veon Bell to a long term deal either. Pittsburgh would have to attempt to trade him in order not to lose Bell and get nothing in return. Now the big one, how do they get Antonio Brown signed long term? Getting that done would require the Steelers being very creative with the salary cap.
In theory the Steelers could free up enough cap room and make the bold move to sign Josh Norman. It would make Pittsburgh the favorites in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl. If the Steelers were ever to break the mold and do something that completely goes against how they normally do business, now is the time. Pittsburgh has a 3 or 4 year window left in Ben Roethlisbergers’ prime, and the offense is as good as any in the league. Improving the defense with a shut down corner could get the Steelers multiple championships. The chances of all this happening are slim to none given how Pittsburgh goes about building their team, but Steeler fans can dream right?