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Josh Norman hits free agency after Panthers pull franchise tag

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have pulled the franchise tag off cornerback Josh Norman, which means he's now a free agent. According to Pro Football Talk, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said that a long-term agreement with Norman was "unattainable", which is why they let him go.

This is quite the stunning move, as Norman was one of the very best cornerbacks in the NFL last season and a key player for Carolina's Super Bowl defense. The fact that they didn't want to keep him for even one more season without a long-term deal is baffling, especially considering the fact that they can't really spend the freed-up cap space on any players now.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be interested in Norman, but his price tag may be prohibitive. The Bucs have the cap space to spend big on a top cornerback. Over The Cap estimates they have over $15 million, and they can free up more by cutting players like Alterraun Verner, Gosder Cherilus, George Johnson and even Vincent Jackson. The team has also been hesitant to spend top dollar even on top-notch free agents, and having just signed Brent Grimes will make Norman an even less likely addition.

Still, Tampa Bay should at least sniff around Norman. Stealing a cornerback from their divisional rivals, let alone one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, would be a massive coup.