Well, Bills Mafia, it has come down to the nitty-gritty for Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. After a 13-3 run to the AFC Championship, it is time to make some free agency decisions. One of those is the potential resigning of CB Josh Norman. The 33-year-old had a quiet season for the Bills, which I will break down in a moment. But with the Bills’ current cap situation, can they even afford to bring the nine-year veteran back?
Norman Was Not Spectacular But Showed Up in Spurts
Let’s face it, Bills fans, Josh Norman had a sub-par 2020-2021 campaign. Tabbed as the Bills CB2 starter after training camp, the 33-year-old struggled to gain any traction. Playing in nine games, Norman recorded only 24 tackles, far off from his 2015 all-pro performance in Carolina.
But Norman showed some bursts of excellence while on the field. During Buffalo’s week four matchup with Las Vegas, the Raiders were driving early in the fourth quarter trailing 23-16. But with the flip of a switch, Norman changed the outcome. With his best Charles “Peanut” Tillman impression, Norman forced TE Darren Waller to cough up the football.
Seconds later, Norman recovered his own fumble, giving the Bills the ball back. And after a Josh Allen bomb to Stefon Diggs, Buffalo scored four plays later to go up fourteen. The momentum swing put the game on ice, ultimately giving Buffalo a 30-23 victory.
Also, in Buffalo’s first match-up with the Chiefs in week six, Norman did not miss a beat. He played in all 73 defensive snaps and recovered another fumble right before halftime. Buffalo did not cash in on the fumble, however, as Tyler Bass missed a 52-yard field goal wide right. But Norman stepped up when it counted.
Levi Wallace Deserved More Playing Time
However, Norman’s overall stats are not eye-popping. In nine games, he gave up a 65.6% completion percentage and quarterbacks had an 84.0 rating when they targeted him. Now, compare Norman’s stats to Levi Wallace. And its clear Wallace beat Norman (57.7% completion and 85.3 QB rating when targeted in 12 games).
I’m not taking anything away from Josh Norman, as I believe he had a mildly successful season. It did not help that he missed the first three games of the year. But another thorn in the side of the former all-pro is his age.
Norman’s Age and Better Options?
One of the major concerns for Josh Norman is his age. The 33-year-old struggled to stay consistent last season, as a hamstring injury held him out for the first three games. Also, the NFL is beginning what I like to call the offensive carousel.
Before Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and other young big arm QBs entered the league, there was emphasis on clock management. Teams wanted to win the time of possession battle by running the ball down their opponent’s throats.
Nowadays, older CBs like Norman struggle to adjust to an offensive unit who can score three touchdowns rather quickly. They cannot keep up with the bigger and faster offenses like Kansas City or Buffalo has.
But the Bills have free agent AND draft options to help tackle this evolving NFL style of offense without Norman.
Free Agent Option Besides Norman
This may be an intriguing signing for some, as NYUpstate’s Matt Parrino sounded the potential Xavier Rhodes alarm last week.
The stats do not lie; the 30-year-old Rhodes was better than every CB on the Bills roster besides Tre’Davious White. In 16 games, Rhodes gave up 42 completions compared to 21 for Norman (9 games) and 41 for Levi Wallace (12 games). And Rhodes gave up only five more yards (563) than Wallace (558).
Another important development is Rhodes age, as he is three years younger than Norman. And he has connections with Stefon Diggs, as the two were teammates in Minnesota.
He could be the veteran presence to give younger players like Dane Jackson and Wallace guidance on how to craft their playing style. It may be tough to snatch Rhodes, though, as he commands a $7.3 million average salary according to Spotrac. But it would be a decent upgrade over Norman.
While Xavier Rhodes may be a veteran answer, the Bills could replace Norman walk a younger and stronger CB2.
1.) Tyson Campbell (Georgia)
The 6’2”, 185-pound Campbell could be an option for the Bills instead of Norman. Projected as a first or second round pick, his speed and agility could make him a viable option for the Bills CB2 position.
Overall, his junior season at Georgia was not mind-blowing (29 tackles, one interception and six passes defensed in 10 games). But his ability to play press coverage and perform against some of the best SEC offensive talent could make fans forget about Norman.
2.) Aaron Robinson (UCF)
Aaron Robinson should not be a new name for Bills fans. He has been linked to the team in past mock drafts. Plus, his connection with former teammate and current WR Gabriel Davis could pay dividends.
A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Robinson played his freshman season for Alabama before transferring to UCF. While he is most effective in the slot, his 6’3”, 193-pound frame allows him to play on the outside as well.
If you look at Josh Norman’s tape from this past season, you notice he would play off his man a lot. He was afraid to get burned by the deep ball.
But Robinson is more like Campbell. He pushes the envelope at the line of scrimmage and is not afraid of some hand fighting. And he was very sticky during the Senior Bowl, not allowing an open window to every receiver he covered.
Robinson is projected as a potential first-rounder or potentially may slide to the second. This could be a great addition if the Bills want a player who can play a dual corner position opposite Tre White.
Obviously, there is not a definitive answer for these younger options out of the NFL Draft. There will be some shuffling, as neither Campbell nor Robinson has had their pro days. Plus, many NFL teams are still looking at their quarterback option, as the roller coaster may shuffle the drafting order. This may give the Bills a chance to scoop up Campbell or Robinson at no cost.
But while the Bills could let Norman walk, there has been a different side of him many have not seen.
Changed Man and Community Outreach
Do any of you remember the old Josh Norman? What about the time when he and Odell Beckham Jr. had some sparring sessions on the gridiron in 2015. After some kicks, knees to the head, and punches thrown, both Norman and OBJ were assessed penalties for their antics.
Or what about the time Josh Norman confronted Titans OT Taylor Lewan in 2018? After the game ended, Norman went toe-to-toe with Lewan after he fired an imaginary bow-and-arrow at him (which used to be Norman’s signature celebration). He was ultimately restrained by a Washington team member and both players went their separate ways.
It was no secret Norman developed a hothead sort of attitude. But he had every right to, as he was one of the best cornerbacks in the game at the time.
But once Norman left Washington for Buffalo, you could sense something different. His demeanor and outspokenness towards his opponents seemed to dissipate. Maybe it was due to Buffalo’s “Trust the Process.”
Whatever it was, Norman has seemed to strengthen his image as a member of the Bills.
Buffalo Business Blitz
In conjunction with Norman’s foundation (Starz24) and the City of Buffalo, the cornerback created Buffalo Business Blitz. The initiative provided local businesses in Erie County with grants up to $2500 to help with the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norman’s fight to help small businesses came to an end at the beginning of February. Overall, the program raised more than half a million dollars. At last Friday’s press conference, Norman had a special message for Bills Mafia.
“You can say that this community truly does look out for their neighbors. When you look at how much they donated to charities or funds and they donate like they are to their own backyard, that speaks volumes of their character and who they are,” Norman said.
What Josh Norman has done for the small businesses of Erie County has been nothing short of extraordinary. His determination to help those struggling the most has made him someone the Buffalo community will always remember.
But charity is one thing, while playing at a high level on a Super Bowl contender is another.
Should the Bills Re-sign Norman?
Looking at his stats, things are not looking good for Josh Norman to be retained by the Bills. When Buffalo signed him in March, they gave him $6 million.
Many labeled it as a prove-it deal to see if the veteran had some left in the tank. Plus, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane’s Carolina connection with Norman helped matters too.
There could be some potential options to keep Norman around. The Bills could sign him to a one-year veteran minimum contract. The 2021 veteran minimum is $850,000 with a max of $137,500 in additional cash. If McDermott and Beane want to keep him around, this possibly would be the other way to do it.
With the expected salary cap to be around $185 million, Buffalo has $3,869,343 in cap space according to Spotrac.
But with the need to resign LB Matt Milano and OL Jon Feliciano and Darryl Williams, it probably won’t be happening. Norman is past his prime, and it would be foolish to resign him for any more than the veteran minimum. Plus, the Bills have draft options and options on their current roster, such as Dane Jackson or Levi Wallace.
Should the Bills even consider bringing back Josh Norman? And do you think he will sign with a different time if Buffalo does not offer him a contract? Let me know by writing a comment below or connecting with me on Twitter @benblakely18.
Cap Space and Contract Information courtesy of Spotrac.