Panthers use franchise tag on All-Pro CB Josh Norman

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman on Tuesday.

The team made the announcement two hours before the NFL deadline.

Norman will make $13.952 million next season unless he signs a long-term contract. Carolina has until mid-July to negotiate a new deal with Norman.

Since the Panthers used the non-exclusive franchise tag option, other teams can approach him with offers. If an offer is made and Carolina doesn't match, the Panthers would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their star cornerback.

''Sure, everyone wants a long-term contract because it means more stability,'' Norman told The Associated Press. ''But there isn't much you can do about it.''

Norman said he is happy in Carolina and his goal is still to sign a long-term deal.

''I have been in the Carolinas my entire life,'' Norman said. ''I went to (high school) in South Carolina, played at Coastal Carolina in college and been with the Panthers since Day 1. I have no reason to leave.''

Norman spoke to the AP from Portland, Oregon, where he is currently working on a project with a shoe company.

The 28-year-old Norman had four interceptions in the first four games of the 2015 season, returning two for touchdowns.

He was chosen NFC defensive player of the month for September, and teams rarely threw to his side of the field the remainder of the season. Opposing QBs had a 54.0 QB rating when throwing at Norman - the lowest allowed by all NFL cornerbacks - and he was selected to his first Pro Bowl in a breakout season.

Regardless whether or not Norman signs a long-term deal with the Panthers, he will be getting a significant bump in pay this season. The four-year NFL veteran made $1.5 million last season and $570,000 in 2014 as part of his rookie contract.

The Panthers began negotiations with Norman's agents last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in hopes of reaching a long-term deal. Talks are expected to continue in the coming weeks.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman repeatedly said that using the franchise tag on Norman was a possibility, telling reporters last week he ''isn't in the business of developing players for other teams.''

''Josh has worked hard to develop himself into a very good player,'' Gettleman said in a release Tuesday. ''We appreciate the role he plays for us in our defense and we look forward to having him back for the 2016 season.''

Norman is the sixth player in Panthers history to receive the franchise tag, joining punter Todd Sauerbrun (2003), tackle Jordan Gross (2008), defensive end Julius Peppers (2009), center Ryan Kalil (2011), and defensive end Greg Hardy (2014).

Norman was a fifth-round draft pick by the Panthers in 2012 and has settled nicely into a starter role after a bumpy start with Carolina.

''I'm excited that Josh will be back with the Panthers next season,'' coach Ron Rivera said in a release Tuesday. ''He played very well for us this year and was a big part of the success we enjoyed as a team.''

The Panthers are about $26 million under the 2016 NFL salary cap.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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