Jay Gruden: ‘We’re looking for superstar status from Josh Norman’

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The contract suggests he should be the best cornerback in the NFL, however, Josh Norman’s play has not backed up that standing. But, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden says that doesn’t mean the seven-year veteran corner should be ditched.

Norman will have a $14.5 million salary-cap hit, fifth highest among players at his position this season. For the previous two years, he had the highest number.

“To say he’s performed as the best cornerback in the National Football League would be far-fetched,” Gruden said. “But I will say this: I’m glad we got him. I think not having Josh Norman, our team would be not quite as competitive as we have been with Josh Norman. Moving forward having Josh Norman on this roster is going to help us get where we want to go.”

Norman, 31, represents the sometimes internal conflict of a team: With such a high cap figure, there’s little doubt some would want to part ways. There’s a feeling that while Norman is good, the space could be better occupied.

But with a coaching staff in a situation where it must win now after consecutive 7-9 seasons, they don’t care about the cap hit — they want the player.8

If the Redskins ever did part with Norman, they would need a starting cornerback. They signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this month, but he has no guaranteed money and therefore is an insurance policy. They do have several young corners such as Adonis Alexander who, if they developed him, could challenge for a starting job. But there’s no way to know at this point whether they will.

Norman clearly was irritated at times throughout last season, whether by the chemistry in the secondary or by how he was being used. The Redskins changed secondary coaches, allowing Torrian Gray to leave and replacing him with Ray Horton. The Redskins wanted someone with more NFL experience to help coordinator Greg Manusky with the pass defense. Manusky’s strength is the front seven.

Gruden said Norman will “fit in fine” with Horton and any defensive changes, whether in technique or how he’s deployed. The Redskins have tinkered with Norman’s role during his three seasons, using him more in man coverage than anticipated. Sometimes he travels with the best receiver; other times he doesn’t.

Gruden said Norman’s physical style and competitiveness always help.

“Josh is at his best when he’s challenged,” Gruden said. “You see him step up when he gets matched with Odell [Beckham Jr.] and he gets to run around the field. Ray Horton … [will] push him and challenge him every day and it’ll be fun to watch these guys go at it. He’s a productive guy that’s a sure tackler. Physical. Fits in that mold that we’re trying to get. I still think he’s gonna help us in a big way.”