Carolina Panthers apply franchise tag to All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman

Carolina Panthers apply franchise tag to All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joseph Person/The Charlotte Observer) - The Carolina Panthers have All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman under contract for at least one more year.

The Panthers made official what has long been expected Tuesday, placing the franchise tag on Norman before the 4 p.m. deadline, according to a league source.

Norman, 28, will be guaranteed $13.95 million for 2016 after he signs the franchise tender. The two sides can continue negotiating on a long-term contract until July 15.

Norman, who earned his first Pro Bowl honor last season, wants to become one of the league's highest-paid corners with a contract worth more than $14 million a season.

But considering team officials first met with Norman's representative last week in Indianapolis, the chances of getting a deal done before Tuesday's deadline was remote.

In his three years with the Panthers, general manager Dave Gettleman has not shown a propensity to invest heavily in defensive backs. He let cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell walk in free agency, although Norman played at a much higher level last season than those starters from the 2013 team.

After Norman intercepted four passes in the first four games, returning two for touchdowns, several teams stopped throwing to his side of the field. He didn't add to his interceptions total over the final 12 regular-season games, but he finished with an NFL-best 54.0 passer rating against, according to Pro Football Focus.

Critics – including Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins – claim Norman is not a true lockdown corner because he's not often lined up in man coverage. But with his length (6-foot, 195 pounds), willingness to tackle in run support and ability to play man and zone, Norman is a good fit in the Panthers' scheme.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said last week he's not concerned about Norman's relatively advanced age for someone hitting free agency for the first time. Norman was 24 when the Panthers drafted him in the fifth round in 2012 out of Coastal Carolina.

"Remember, he didn't play an awful lot earlier in his career. And then now he's starting to play a lot," Rivera said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I'm not concerned that he's going to be a worn-down body or anything like that."

Norman becomes the sixth player in Carolina history to receive the tag, joining punter Todd Sauerbrun (2003), left tackle Jordan Gross (2008), defensive end Julius Peppers (2009), center Ryan Kalil (2011) and defensive end Greg Hardy (2013).

The Panthers paid Hardy $13.1 million for what turned out to be one game after he was arrested on misdemeanor domestic violence charges nine days after signing his franchise tender. Those charges were eventually dismissed.