For most Panthers fans, the thought of trading breakout cornerback Josh Norman is an unthinkable one, however it may be the smart thing for Dave Gettleman and the Panthers to do for the future. Norman had a breakout year in 2015, posting career numbers with four interceptions, two touchdowns, and only allowing one touchdown to receivers such as Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Odell Bechham Jr, among others. Norman was a key to the Panthers 15-1 regular season and Super Bowl 50 run in 2015-16, but let's take a little larger look at Norman and his time with the Panthers.
Norman was drafted by the Panthers in 2012 out of Coastal Carolina and largely spent the first two season in Carolina in the dog house. He couldn't seem to keep him calm when given chances on the field, which lead to him being demoted to the practice squad for periods of his first two years. However in his third season with the Panthers (2014) Norman started to seem to get it about halfway through the season, and started understanding how to play within Carolina's defensive scheme, and play as a team player. Norman ended 2014 with zero interception and 11 passes defensed in 14 games played, 10 of which were starts.
However in the first month of 2015 Norman exploded on the scene. With four interceptions and two returned for touchdowns in the Panthers first give games of 2015, opposing teams started staying away from Normans side of the field, resulting in Norman getting far less opportunities to show truly just how good he is. Now none of this is to say Norman isn't a great defender, I think he is, and I think he can turn into one of the games best, but ask yourself, what have we really seen of Josh Norman? How much did he really get tested outside of the first month of the season? From week six til week 17, Norman had no interception, 10 passes defended and two forced fumbles. In the three postseason games Norman has zero interceptions, and four passes defensed. Again I ask, how much do we really know about Josh Norman in the limited action he has had to prove himself?
Let's consider the Panthers options. Norman has not come outright and said he will not participate in offseason activities for the Panthers this season, or will skip training camp if he doesn't get what he ultimately wants, a long term, elite cornerback, deal. There in lies the problem. The Panthers have more than just Norman to consider in the future salary cap plans. Dave Gettleman has made it clear he wants to get DT's Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei signed to long-term deals, and currently the Panthers only have a little over $13 million in salary cap space remaining for 2016. So it seems very unlikely Norman will get the deal he wants from the Panthers, at least not this offseason.
The Panthers, if they stand firm on Norman, and aren't able to sign him long-term face some tough decisions. The likeliness of Norman regressing in 2016 is high, especially is he is not committed to the team during the offseason. But the Panthers do have options.
If it becomes absolutely clear the Panthers and Norman are not going to be able to come to any sort of agreement and that 2016 would be his last year in Carolina, it may be in the best interest of the Panthers organization to attempt to trade Norman. (Let the revolt begin, but hear me out). The Panthers can either let Norman play out 2016 and see what happens, which will most likely result in him walking into free-agency in 2017 leaving to the Panther with nothing. Or the Panthers could begin exploring trade options for Norman, to guarantee themselves something in return for Norman, instead of him just being allowed to walk.
This offseason, Norman would command a high price and the Panthers could almost name their price for Norman. The Panthers could feasibly get a high round draft pick or two for Norman (1 or 2) plus a veteran corner that could play across from the budding Bene Benewikeri. Then the Panthers could use that pick(s) on a corner (in a cornerback deep draft). While signing a veteran to a two year team friendly deal, the Panthers would have time to develop a young corner that could help the Panthers in the future, not just in 2016.
So conclusion? If the Panthers and Norman cannot come to an agreement before the summer, which is unlikely, the Panthers should start shopping Norman around and see what teams are willing to offer for his services. As they say, something is better than nothing.