When the Washington Redskins introduced newly signed cornerback Josh Norman to the media Monday, it appeared that the team was back in an all-too-familiar off-season situation despite the fact that the Pro Bowler’s eagerness to play and show his worth was on full display.
Over the years, Washington has entertained and signed its share of high-priced free agents. The difference this time is that the Redskins are getting a player who, if anything, will continue to play his best football for the foreseeable future rather than the situation being one wherein that player had passed his prime as has so often been the case for this ball club.
The team has not been strongly active in free agency this year and this recent signing was one made out of necessity not a back-in-the-day Redskins off-season spending spree.
The former-Carolina-Panther-turned-free-agent was at the podium wearing Burgundy and gold and it was a sight to see as just 48 hours before the thought of him coming to the nation’s capital was up in the air.
With Norman in the secondary mix now, the NFC East Division champion Redskins are now being mentioned as a possible contender that could go deep into the playoffs.
What does the signing of the Pro Bowl corner who was the first ever player to be named an All-Pro and become a free agent in the same season do for the Redskins?
There are three things that Norman’s signing immediately does for Washington:
1. It brings toughness and a chip-on-the-shoulder style of play to the team.
Over the years there have been a few Redskins players who have been accused of not having a lot of “fight” in them. But the attitude on the team was the exact opposite during the 2015 season when it won the division and had a highly-viewed large-scale training camp scuffle against the Houston Texans.
For example, there have been several players who have stood up for the team in brief altercations. Players such as left tackle Trent Williams, receiver Pierre Garçon, cornerback-turned-safety DeAngelo Hall and tight end Niles Paul have all shown that they would not back down from a confrontation.
But, the team as a whole really hasn’t had a high profile “dog” or agitator roaming in deep cover since the late great safety Sean Taylor.
Norman’s demeanor is one in which he will get into his opponents face and challenge them mentally and physically for an entire game.
His epic battle against New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. was an instant classic in 2015 and showed his on-the-field demeanor and nasty streak.
This type of play should both endear him to his teammates and rub off on them. Also, with another tough guy in linebacker Junior Galette returning from an Achilles injury suffered last train camp; the defense could be one of the league’s more “chippy” units.
2. Norman is a true No. 1 corner.
In today’s pass-happy NFL, defensive coordinators are always trying to come up with schemes and formulas that can slow down the league’s high-octane offenses. Having a lock down corner is a rare commodity that many teams wish they could have. Norman gives defensive coordinator Joe Barry that type of talent.
The former walk on at Coastal Carolina College will now give the Redskins a true No. 1 corner to challenge the likes of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and the aforementioned Beckham with New York.
Washington opens the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers who possess perhaps the game’s biggest playmaking wide out in Antonio Brown. Norman’s status will be put to the test from the onset of the 2016 campaign.
The new cornerback should also allow for up-and-coming corner Bashaud Breeland to really flourish this season from a learn-and-see standpoint. Breeland possesses the attributes to become an elite-caliber defensive back and will benefit with more opportunities coming his way with Norman on the other side of the field. Opposing quarterbacks will have to pick their poison when facing the duo.
If veteran CB Chris Culliver can return healthy from his MCL/ACL tear, the Burgundy and Gold could own the best corner tandem in the league.
1. Norman is a marketable player.
The Redskins have always been an organization that loves to get marketing value from their players.
When the team signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson two seasons ago they were getting a dominant football player. But they also were getting a player who would help sell tickets and keep excitement in the air surrounding the team.
Norman is that type player as well and, if his press conference from Monday was any indication, he has already gotten Redskins Nation excited.
His words and rhetoric proved to be both galvanizing and uplifting.
Despite the lavish courtship the team heaped on him, Norman is anything but cavalier about what is expected of him and what he needs to do as a Redskin.
“Oh my goodness, I carried a big bag with me when I came up here,” Norman said. “I’ve still got that bag with me and it’s on my back now. You can’t see it, but when I step in between [those] white lines, I’m going to drop it. When you see it, it’s going to be pretty, pretty heavy, and I can’t wait until that time comes. Right now I’m just getting acclimated with my new teammates and showing them how much I care about them, loving up on them and getting to know them. Back in Carolina, they are my guys… my teammates, my brothers. I love each and every one of them. Nothing has changed from that perspective [for] me. I’m human, you know? This happened kind of like overnight in a way. I still have got those feelings but at the end of the day you’ve got to understand that this is a business.
For me, I just looked at that and went on and took it as I’m here to help someone else. I’m here to pay it forward and give back as much as I can to show someone else. I took that approach and now I’m a leader for a team, a team that really wants me and truly [does] value me and what I can bring to the table. I’m ready to give everything I’ve got to them so this is why I’m here.”
As an example of the team’s penchant for acquiring marketable players, former starting quarterback Robert Griffin, III was once a lightning strike waiting to happen. His every word was often overanalyzed and brought endless attention. For all of his shortcomings on the field after his 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign, off the field he still was a marketing boon for the team.
Norman possesses the same star power. He will not shy away from competition against his opponents and will talk the week leading up to the game with intentions of backing up his words.
This makes for must-see TV and great content for the media. Don’t think that the NFL gurus won’t find a way to get his anticipated match-ups on prime time television. The Redskins will benefit as well.
Norman’s five- year, $75 million, $51.1 million guaranteed contract makes him the game’s highest paid cornerback. If the Redskins new marketing piece backs up this massive contract, 2016 will be a truly exciting football season in the nation’s capital.