All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman is on the street, the Carolina Panthers rescinding their franchise tag due to his high salary demands. That makes him fair game for any suitor, and because of the Dallas Cowboys’ high profile — and many needs — a speculative connection has been made.
A story for another day can be written on whether the Cowboys “will’’ bid on Norman or “should’’ bid on Norman. (Dallas’ recent M.O. suggests they will not be interested in a $15-mil-a-year cornerback but again … for another day.)
But the first agenda item here should be:
Would Dallas’ salary cap allow the Cowboys to bid on a $15-mil-a-year talent like Josh Norman?
And the answer is not only an unequivocal “yes,’’ but also: “Yes. Easily.’'
It confounds me that so many of my media colleagues answer this question with a resounding “no,’’ and then when are shown proof of how wrong they are, crawfish back into trying to explain that they didn’t mean Dallas “can’t,’’ they meant Dallas “won’t.’'
Intention is a completely different argument. Ability is the point here, and it’s not about cap magic (meaning it’s not that hard to understand), but rather about cap math.
Presently, the Cowboys have more than $7 million in cap space - though the bulk of that is earmarked for the rookie class. So how can Josh Norman possibly fit?
We can mirror the contract Dallas recently gave Dez Bryant or the contract the Jets recently gave Darrelle Revis, both in the $70- to $75-mil range.
And with the help of colleague Joey Ickes, here goes:
Dallas gives Norman what is billed as a five-year, $75-million contract He gets $22 million in a signing bonus and he gets $39 million guaranteed. Norman, 29, comes away with his $15- to $16-mil a year but you can structure the contract for “escapability’' after Year 3.
Oh, and the 2016 cap impact using these numbers is just $5.2 million.
Now, besides that $7 mil for the rookie pool — because that’s got to be spent there eventually — there must be another way to fit Norman’s $5.2 mil in, right?
In fact, there are multiple ways, five specific ways:
1 Re-Do Dez. A switch can be flipped that opens up $6.4 million of cap room.
2 Cut Barry Church. The coaches won’t like this, but it gives Dallas $4.2 million of room, most of the way to Norman’s needs.
3 Re-Do Jason Witten. This isn’t preferable — it’s the only “kick-the-can’’ concept of the bunch. But it’s a mathematical option that saves Dallas $3.6 mil this year, and would put them most of the way to Norman room.
4 Cut Brandon Carr now. The coaches like him, too. But that saves Dallas $6 million, so the Cowboys would be replacing a solid corner with a spectacular one and actually taking up less cap space.
5 Cut Brandon Carr on June 1. That saves Dallas a whopping $9 mil. Do this, then sign your rookies afterwards, and you leave cap money in your pocket.
I keep hearing that Josh Norman personally loves the Bay Area and the Niners and Raiders both have cap room. I keep wondering whether Dallas’ pass rush (or lack thereof) would expose Norman, or whether his buoyant skills would cause all of the Cowboys’ defensive skills to rise. It's worth noting that the juggling of the budget is important as it relates to the retention of the existing young Cowboys standouts. I keep daydreaming not only of Norman on Odell Beckham twice a year, but also Norman and Dez battling every day at training camp in Oxnard and beyond.
But all that is speculative fun, and premature for me. The first order of business on this story is “Can Dallas’ Cap Afford To Sign Josh Norman?’'
And the answer is unequivocally “yes.’'