The Carolina Panthers removed the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, clearing the way for him to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Panthers made the surprising announcement in an afternoon news release.
“After a number of conversations with Josh’s agent, we realized that a long-term deal was not attainable,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “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.”
The 28-year-old Norman, entering his fifth season in the NFL, finished 2015 with a career-best four interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. He also had 56 tackles, 16 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while gaining acclaim as one of the league’s best cornerbacks.
In his first four seasons with the Panthers, Norman started 38 of 53 regular-season games and had seven interceptions, 172 tackles, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 35 passes defensed.
Norman, selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was the sixth player in Panthers history to have the franchise tag put on him. The last was defensive end Greg Hardy in 2014.