Russell: Adding Norman ends McCloughan doctrine?

Remember when Scot McCloughan said the Redskins wouldn't be big player in free agency? That's not all that would change with a Josh Norman signing.

The Washington Redskins, amazingly, are the front-runners to sign free-agent cornerback Josh Norman. The Pro Bowler is visiting with Washington on Friday and could possibly lock up a deal by the end of the day.

Holy out of left field, Batman.

This would be nothing short of astonishing because with the clock showing 5 p.m. on the East Coast Wednesday, Norman was a Carolina Panther, under a restrictive franchise tag and a complete afterthought on the NFL landscape.

Fast forward 48 or so hours later and he could very well be wearing burgundy and gold, and the recipient of a five-year contract, with a reported annual value of $14-15 million per year.

 With Norman set to make Ashburn his first free agent stop, three things come to mind:

1. The Redskins can use corner help and obviously Norman can play

2. That's a potentially huge and stunning commitment

3. What happened to building through the draft and not making big splashes in free agency?

The exact structure, terms and guarantees could change my opinion, but let me admit I am completely stunned that the Redskins would go this hard for a 28-year old who has a somewhat volatile reputation at the reported price.

On Thursday, both online and on the radio with 106.7 The FAN, I pushed for the Redskins to try and sign Norman for a one-year deal. That way, not locked into a long-term deal and he would be able to hit the free agent market next March.

Boy was I wrong! I don’t know, I always seem to think differently than how the Redskins operate. We agree to a certain point, but then we take different paths.

Again, I want to stress, I am absolutely on-board with bringing Norman in - I just have significant financial concerns long-term.  

It goes without saying that Norman would rather get a multi-year deal than a one-year deal, if the price were right.  The price is different -- and so is the age -- compared to the commitment Washington made last season. Norman is 28, two years older than Chris Culliver, whom the Redskins signed last offseason to a four-year, $32 million dollar deal. In the NFL, two years of age (and mileage) is a pretty significant difference.  

To be fair, Norman has stayed healthy -- Culliver, not so much -- and keeps getting better, so perhaps I am overrating the age element. He also only has four years of NFL service as he played his entire collegiate career at Coastal Carolina. 

There’s no question the Redskins have a need at cornerback. They flipped DeAngelo Hall to safety last year and felt they needed significantly more help in a pass happy, nickel package league. 

I don’t question the need or the fit for the Redskins schematically, it’s just the size of the gamble the Redskins are making. Norman is primarily a zone corner, who can play man, if needed at a competent level.  

What will be interesting to see is how the Redskins proceed if and when they get the deal with Norman done. 

Will they keep Culliver, Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar and Will Blackmon all in the fold and just add Norman at cornerback, allowing Culliver the extra time to slowly come back and possibly even miss the first several weeks of the season? 

Or will they release Culliver and save approximately $5.5 million against their cap in 2016? The Redskins have approximately $12 million in cap space entering Friday but that number is in reality a couple of million less because of various rules and mechanisms in play under the NFL salary cap. 

Here's another consideration: Start Culliver’s conversion to safety. He played the position in college at South Carolina. He has the frame and physicality to play the position. There are potential issues like does he post-injury have the range and explosion needed to play single-high safety. 

If the Redskins start Culliver’s conversion to safety, the primary “nickel” secondary could look like this: Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland outside, with Will Blackmon inside and Hall along with Culliver manning the safety spots. 

That allows Quinton Dunbar to continue his development and allow for the Redskins to have more options at safety in case Hall or Duke Ihenacho go down. 

That’s really the only way I can see this working in a way that makes sense. 

As for the McCloughan doctrine of  building through the draft and not making big splashes in free agency, I didn’t (completely) believe it when I heard such talk. This move would make such talk laughable. In case you don’t remember, McCloughan told reporters at the Senior Bowl in late January, “we’re not going to be big players (in free agency). I don’t believe in that.” 

So much for that theory. Of course, Washington will use the draft, but clearly, just like last year, it is not a sole or even primary means of survival. 

Another issue that crossed my mind during a Norman conversation with publisher Ben Standig involved the other Redskins. Would the signing of Norman mean Washington is resigned to not being able to bring back Junior Galette and/or Chris Baker at the end of 2016? 

Alternatively, perhaps, the money they could save by letting Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson go at the end of 2016 will be enough to allow the Redskins the ability and flexibility to retain their defensive horses and Kirk Cousins, while they rebuild and reinvest in the wide receiver position? 

Or could the signing of Norman be a sign that the Redskins are trying to make sure they are well balanced in all three phases and they might try to spend less on the quarterback position in 2017? 

Here's all we know for sure: The last 36 hours have been wild and things may only just be getting started.

Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.

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