After carefully considering their options for weeks, the Panthers have decided to place the franchise tag on center Ryan Kalil, according to Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer.
Kalil was always the best option for the tag because of his consistent track record of Pro Bowl quality play. Running back DeAngelo Williams plays a more fungible position, while defensive end Charles Johnson only had one strong season behind him.
Kalil is viewed as one of the league’s top centers and a key piece to a Panthers offensive line that looks solid on paper. He’s set to make somewhere over $10 million next year.
Retaining Johnson figures to still be a priority for the Panthers. He’s not eligible for the transition tag because he’s only a fourth-year player and could make big bucks after an 11-sack season if he’s allowed to become an unrestricted free agent.
Defensive end was going to be a need whether Johnson leaves or not, but this news will only increase speculation about Da’Quan Bowers as a potential No. 1 overall pick to Carolina.
The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is Thursday, February 24.
UPDATE: Panthers G.M. Matty Hurney confirmed the move.