Should the Jaguars Consider Pursuing Veteran CB Josh Norman?
A veteran cornerback has hit the open market and is looking for a new home in 2020 after the Washington Redskins reportedly decided to release cornerback Josh Norman on Friday, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Norman, 32, was one of the NFL's top cover men during his peak years with the Carolina Panthers, but his play has steadily fallen off since he came to Washington in 2016. Signing him wouldn't be like bringing the 2015 version of Norman, who was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro member, but could he still benefit a secondary like Jacksonville's?
Why the Jaguars could consider pursuing Norman
The Jaguars are currently among the bottom of the league in terms of project cap space in 2020, so they will have to make a lot of moves to clear up cap space. One of those moves could potentially be cornerback A.J. Bouye due to his massive salary in 2020 and regression in production (two interceptions in last two years).
According to OverTheCap, Bouye has the fourth-largest cap number on the Jaguars' roster next season with a $15,437,500 figure. If the Jaguars were to cut Bouye and make him a cap victim, they would save $11,437,500 , a large number for a cap-strapped team like Jacksonville. The cap savings the Jaguars would get from cutting Bouye are the third-highest on the roster, behind only defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell.
If Jacksonville were to move on from Bouye, they would need to add a veteran cornerback to their ranks to feel comfortable with the group heading into the draft. Outside of Bouye, the Jaguars would only have Tre Herndon (14 career starts), D.J. Hayden (40 career starts), Parry Nickerson (three career starts), Brandon Watson (zero career starts) who have appeared in games left in the cornerback room.
Norman (91 career starts) would be an answer to the lack of experience, and he is unlikely to command a large contract. Signing Norman also wouldn't prevent the Jaguars from being able to draft a cornerback early in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In addition, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has experience with Norman due to his years as Washington's head coach. Gruden coached Norman for the vast majority of the cornerback's time in Washington, so he has good insight into where his play is at.
Why the Jaguars should avoid Norman
The only thing Norman really offers is veteran experience at this point in his career. He is a shell of the player he was during Carolina's Super Bowl run in 2015, and his production in Washington has reflected that. In fact, Washington likely has severe buyers remorse from the deal that brought Norman to the franchise.
Norman, who only started eight games in 2019, has some coverage statistics that should concern any team who wants to sign the cornerback who will be entering his ninth season in 2020. While he would have a lot of experience the Jaguars' current cornerbacks don't have, he performed worse in 2019 than Bouye, Herndon, and Hayden.
According to Pro Football Reference, Norman had a 66.3% completion percentage allowed in coverage in 2018, allowing 733 yards in the year (12.9 yards per completion), along with eight touchdowns. Norman recorded three interceptions and nine pass deflections, but teams generally had success when targetting him.
Norman took an even larger step back in 2019 as his age and injuries continued to sap his ability. In only 12 games (eight starts), Norman had a 67.4% completion percentage allowed in coverage, allowing 444 yards in coverage (14.3 yards per completion) and seven touchdowns. Allowing that many touchdowns in only eight starts is a major red flag, as is the fact that Norman only totaled one interception and six pass deflections.
While the Jaguars will likely need to invest in a veteran cornerback this offseason, Norman is one player general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone should shy away from.
Norman has a lot of experience under his belt, but that is really the only positive he currently has as he enters free agency. His play has regressed severely since his top seasons, and at 32 this trend should be expected to continue.
Jacksonville should monitor the cornerback market closely in the event Bouye is cut, but Norman wouldn't make much, if any, sense as an option.