The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among the 10 teams that have already contacted the agent representing former Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, who suddenly became a free agent Wednesday evening after the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag because they couldn't work out a long-term deal.
The Bucs do have $16.2 million of salary cap space available and with some creative maneuvering they could sign Norman and still have some wiggle room. Unfortunately, there are 12 other teams with more salary cap space -- including three with at least $40 million: Jacksonville ($53.6 million), San Francisco ($53.1 million) and Cleveland ($40.4 million). San Francisco has made contact with Norman's agent, a source told ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton.
The Bucs' two biggest weaknesses on defense are cornerback and defensive end. Former Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has been a popular choice in mock drafts for the Bucs at No. 9. He has been regarded as one of the best cover corners in the draft, and he would make sense as the Buccaneers' selection.
Hargreaves, however, isn't a proven player. Norman is, and while the cost may be around $16 million annually (which is reportedly what Norman is seeking), it may be the better choice. The Bucs play two games each year against Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. Norman already has faced Ryan and Brees and performed pretty well: According to Pro Football Focus, Norman allowed a passer rating of 54.0 in 2015, which was the best in the NFL.
If Norman's decision is going to be all about money, the Bucs have little chance of winning. However, the Bucs can offer Norman something those other teams can't: the chance to play against the Panthers twice a year. For a player who might feel spurned, annual chances at revenge can be attractive.
The Bucs do have a young nucleus of defensive talent in linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Norman would add the same kind of attitude and confidence that the Bucs' great defenses had with Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Landing Norman, along with the moves the they made in free agency and a solid draft, would instantly make the Bucs a playoff contender in 2016.