On Monday, the San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed free-agent cornerback Josh Norman to a one-year deal, a mere week before the official start of the NFL regular season. Acquiring a new player this close to their first regular game is extremely rare, and this move by the 49ers was definitely a shocking turn of events.
This will be Norman’s tenth season playing as a cornerback for the NFL. Drafted in 2012 by the Carolina Panthers, Norman remained with them for four seasons before signing with the Washington Football Team. He played for Jay Gruden in Washington from 2016 to 2019.
In 2020, Norman signed with the Buffalo Bills, playing in nine games out of sixteen, earning a total of 24 tackles, four pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception, and a pick-six.
Norman is a veteran player. He was a Pro-Bowler and an All-Pro in 2015, as he helped lead the Panthers to an undefeated regular season and a Super Bowl 50 appearance. He even had a franchise tag applied by the Panthers the following season, but when they rescinded it, Norman signed a $15 million per year, multi-year deal with Washington. In 2020, Norman played with the Bills, starting three times. Since breaking ties with Buffalo and before signing with the 49ers, Norman has been a free agent for most of this offseason.
For me, seeing the name Josh Norman on the NFL headlines brought back a lot of nostalgic memories. I remember being a 15-year-old Washington fan and hoping that even after the Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins excitement and subsequent disappointment, Jay Gruden could somehow turn the team into a winning one. Norman almost immediately made his presence known, making big stops, forcing fumbles, and becoming a household name in the home of Washington fans.
But in all honesty, I haven’t heard about Josh Norman for a while. Seeing his name in the headlines again kind of sparked something in my mind. I wondered where he’d been, if he was still a decent player, and if he’d ever make a comeback. I guess we’ll see if Norman still has it when he makes his 2021 debut with the 49ers on Sunday, in their first game against the Detroit Lions.
According to the NFL website, the 49ers added Norman to a cornerback group that currently has just two rookies — Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir — behind outside starters Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley and nickel corner K’Waun Williams.
Over social media this weekend, Norman hinted at joining the 49ers, tweeting on Friday, “Wonder what’s the temperature in Cali right about now.” On Sunday, he tweeted, “In the final hours before the breaking point. A decision has been made! Now there’s only one thing left to do…”
Josh Norman has been given another chance to make an impact on the NFL after playing only nine games in 2020. Will he prove that he still has it, or will the 49ers come to regret their decision? I guess we’ll just have to tune in on Sunday to find out.
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