The Buffalo Bills boasted the second-best scoring defense in the NFL in 2019. On Monday morning, the rich just got richer.
The Bills signed veteran cornerback Josh Norman to a one-year, $6 million deal to bolster one of the NFL’s best secondaries. The veteran cornerback rounds out a group that already includes budding star Tre’Davious White.
By bringing in Norman, the Bills are sending a clear signal that they are ready to take the throne in the AFC East. And considering Tom Brady may be suiting up elsewhere, Buffalo is now the most complete team in the division.
Norman developed into top-flight corner under Sean McDermott in Carolina
Nearly a decade ago, the Carolina Panthers selected Norman in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Hailing from Coastal Carolina, Norrman entered the league with a ton of upside but he still needed to shed the small-school star label.
With McDermott as his defensive coordinator, he did just that. Despite running a sluggish 4.66 40-yard dash, he quickly proved himself worthy of a starting spot. By the end of training camp, Norman earned the No. 2 cornerback role and started 12 games as a rookie.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Norman truly came into his own. Playing on a defense loaded with premier players like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Kawaan Short, Norman enjoyed his finest season to date. He recorded a career-high four interceptions to go along with 18 passes defended.
McDermott’s sixth-ranked scoring defense led Carolina all the way to Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately, the Panthers’s dominant defensive effort against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos was all for naught. Cam Newton and the offense mustered just 10 points in a tough loss and have never come close to returning to that level of success.
Norman never lived up to expectations in Washington
After four solid season in Carolina, Norman seemed like a likely candidate for an extension. Instead, the Panthers placed the franchise tag on the up-and-coming corner. And after failed negotiations, they ultimately rescinded the tag and the Redskins signed Norman to a record-setting five-year, $75 million deal.
Unfortunately for Redskins fans, the Norman era didn’t live up to expectations. While he did play well in his debut campaign in the nation’s capital, Norman’s play tailed off significantly.
His Pro Football Focus coverage grades steadily declined, which was not a surprise considering how well he played in McDermott’s zone-based scheme in Carolina. Forced to play more man-to-man coverage, the physical but slow-footed Norman never looked comfortable in Washington.
After tallying three interceptions and 19 passes defended in his first year in D.C., Norman totaled just four picks and 24 passes defended from 2017-2019. His play became so detrimental that the Redskins benched him at the end of the season and subsequently cut him in February.
Norman addition gives Buffalo upper hand in AFC East
Despite his demise in D.C., Norman still brings value to Buffalo. His return to McDermott’s zone-based, disciplined system should be a big boost for the 32-year-old.
Since arriving in 2017, McDermott has quickly transformed the Bills into one of the stoutest defensive teams in the NFL. Buffalo ranked 26th in yards allowed in 2017 before jumping all the way to second just a year later. Last season, the Bills ranked third in yards allowed and second in points—right behind the Patriots.
Joining a stingy secondary that already includes a two-time Pro Bowler in White and the underrated safety duo of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, Norman should slot in well as the No. 2 or No. 3 corner. That added depth gives Buffalo an envious mix of youth and veteran talent on the back end that complements a stout front seven anchored by recent top draft picks Tremaine Edmunds and Ed Oliver.
Overall, the Bills boast the best defense not only in the AFC but arguably the conference. New England’s top-ranked unit could look a whole lot different in 2020 without impending free agents Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton.
While the Patriots may have ruled the AFC East for two decades, the Norman signing solidifies one of the NFL’s best defenses. And with the Patriots in a state of transition, the Bills now boast the most complete roster in the division.