When the Panthers decided to apply the franchise tag to four-year center Ryan Kalil, many assumed that running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Charles Johnson would be permitted to leave via free agency.
That’s not necessarily the case.
As Silva pointed out 10 days ago, the next frontier in the free agency fight will arise in the realm of restricted free agency. Since the rules of the uncapped year still apply, teams could apply restricted free agency tenders to players with four or five years of service, even though those players would be unrestricted free agents in capped years under the current labor deal.
Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Panthers will apply restricted free agency tenders to Williams and Johnson.
Williams has five years of service, while Johnson has four.
It’s a calculated risk, given that the next CBA could push the free-agency needle back to four years, which could then wipe out the tenders. Also, the union likely will contend that the rules of the uncapped year have no relevance to 2011, the first year of the next deal. (If/when there is a next deal.)
Still, the move gives the teams protection in the event the rules don’t change — and leverage regarding the bargaining process by which change would come. The league’s position will be that six years to free agency is the status quo, and that the union will have to make a concession to push it back to four.
There’s a good chance that the topic already has come up during the six days of mediation. If it hasn’t yet, it will soon.