ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Josh Norman was not used to being courted for his football skills, whether by a top college or an NFL team.
He walked on at Coastal Carolina. He was a fifth-round draft pick. So when owner Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins brought out all the stops — the private jet, the mock-up of a No. 24 jersey — the All-Pro cornerback was smitten, quickly joining the team as a free agent after surprisingly being let go by the NFC champion Carolina Panthers.
“I never really, all my life … was recruited by any big-time organization or anything like that,” Norman said Monday during his introductory news conference at Redskins Park, wearing a burgundy, sleeveless shirt and shorts of the same color.
When first got to the Panthers, he added, “there wasn’t any big hurrah.”
“But now at the biggest stage in the world, and I get to be a free agent — jeez, it was like a party,” Norman said with a chuckle. “So I kind of got a feeling for how those first-rounders and everybody felt when all the glitz and glam started coming. I enjoyed it, man. I was very appreciative of it.”
The Redskins sent Snyder’s airplane to pick up Norman and bring him to the team’s facility on Friday.
“How long did it take to get to him? Ten minutes. We were in,” general manager Scot McCloughan said. “I don’t want to mention how many teams that were involved, but it was a lot. So we knew we had to get in right away and just get him on an airplane, and that’s what we did.”
Indeed, they did.
Norman left Virginia that day with a new five-year deal that could be worth up to $75 million, with about half due over the first two seasons.
“Shoot, once I got on that plane,” Norman said with a big laugh, “they didn’t let me out of the building.”
That happened just days after the Panthers rescinded a franchise tag, allowing Norman to become an unrestricted free agent at age 28.
He described it all as “still kind of surreal,” noting: “This happened kind of like overnight, in a way.”
And Norman said the way it all transpired left him motivated to improve his play, which already was good enough to have most consider him among the very best cornerbacks in the league.
“I carried a big bag with me when I came up here. Still got that bag,” Norman said, jutting his right thumb toward his back. “It’s on … right now. You can’t see it. But when I step between the white lines, I’m going to drop it. It’s going to be pretty, pretty heavy.”
He called the Redskins a team “on the rise,” saying: “They got pieces in place to make a deep run.”
As might be expected, McCloughan — who spoke at a separate news conference before Norman’s — spoke only glowingly of the first big-name free agent he’s spent big money on since being hired by Washington in early 2015.
“I feel,” McCloughan said, “he’s in the prime of his career.”
Note: McCloughan said the Redskins have been talking with QB Kirk Cousins about a long-term deal. “We’re still in discussions and they’re positive. It takes both sides to get to an agreement. But it’s a positive thing. There’s a positive feeling here about him. … It’s a big contract. It’s a negotiation. It’s back and forth. We’re in contact. We’d love to get something done.”