They have between now and March 1 to use the tag and until March 7 to work out a long-term deal before other teams can begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents.
Here are five reasons the Panthers likely will use the franchise tag on Norman:
Price tag: Norman turned down more than $7 million a year prior to the 2015 season because he wanted to be paid among the top cornerbacks. That would be in the $14 million-a-year range, more than double what Carolina offered. The estimated cost for the franchise tag on a cornerback is $13.7 million. So the Panthers could use the tag now to get another year out of Norman before deciding if a long-term deal is warranted.
Age: Norman turned 28 on December 15, so any long-term deal (four or five years) would put him at 32-33 by the end of the contract. As well as Norman has played the past two seasons, the Panthers might not be willing to invest top dollar in what could be the back end of Norman’s career.
Philosophy: General manager Dave Gettleman hasn’t invested top dollar in a cornerback since arriving in January of 2013. As he noted during his season-ending news conference, the idea of a "shutdown corner is a misnomer." Gettleman added, "If there’s no pass rush, there’s no shutdown corners." For the Panthers, good defense starts on the front end, not the back end.
Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei: Gettleman likes his big men, and he has two of the best in Short and Lotulelei. Gettleman can tie up Lotulelei through 2017 by exercising the fifth-year option. Short’s rookie deal expires after the 2016 season, so the timetable on getting a long-term extension worked out is -- no pun intended -- short. That could cost Carolina an average of $15 million or more per season. Based on what Gettleman said above, pass-rushers are a priority. Short had 11 sacks during the 2015 regular season.
Luke Kuechly: Prior to the 2015 season the three-time Pro Bowl selection signed a five-year deal that will pay him an average of $12.4 million year. It’s hard to imagine the Panthers believe anybody outside of an elite pass-rusher and quarterback Cam Newton is worth that much more than Kuechly.