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How Does the Franchise Tag Affect the Carolina Panthers' Cap Space?

The Carolina Panthers made their first major move of the offseason by placing the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman. The question now is how does this affect the team's cap space and what the Panthers might be able to do in the coming weeks.

The Carolina Panthers are expected to keep their top free agent Josh Norman with the non-exclusive franchise tag. This moves that the team has tendered a one-year, $14 million dollar contract to the star cornerback, which is a significant pay raise from his salary in 2015 of $1,591,750.

Before Tuesday, the Panthers were $29,550,220 under the salary cap however after Norman's contract the Panthers are left with only $15,248,220 cap space left. This is the 11th lowest total among the NFL teams this offseason, according to Spotrac.

While $15 million would seem to be a great deal of money, the Panthers still have a number of their own free agents that they will need to decide what to do. This group includes key players like fullback Mike Tolbert and punter Brad Nortman however there are also four restricted free agents that include starting right tackle Mike Remmers and wide receiver Brenton Bersin.

If the team brings back most of these players, the front office won't have much left under the cap to make a big splash in free agency. They also will need to keep an eye towards the future with defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short entering their final year of their rookie contracts. However, the Panthers will be able to keep Lotulelei if they decide to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, which also will need to be decided this offseason.

General manager Dave Gettleman still has some options on the table though if he wants to create some extra cap space for this offseason. The first thing would be to work out a long-term deal with Norman, which would allow the team to spread some of the cap hit over the length of the contract. 

There are also some players on the roster that could be cut that could create additional cap space, including Charles Johnson who would free up $11 million. However, if the team was to release defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and Nate Chandler it would open up an additional $3.05 million.

Those three moves would increase the Panthers' total cap space back up closer to $30 million and allow the team to pursue some free agents that would command a higher price tag. However, if the Panthers don't decide to make any moves to add additional cap space, it will most likely be a quiet free agency period for the NFC Champions.

*All contract and cap figures courtesy of Spotrac.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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