Jordan Gross, who made a good-faith gesture to be present at offseason workouts, has signed his Franchise tender, guaranteeing him $7.455 million this year and giving the team no rights (other than the franchise tag again) in 2009, a year when Julius Peppers is also a free agent. The tag, in 2009, would cost either $8.946 million or the top 5 average salaries of 2008 for offensive linemen, whichever is greater.
The Panthers will continue to work on a deal with Gross, but probably won't get serious about doing so again until closer to training camp. The team has consistently signed extension deals either in the days leading to free agency (January, February) or concentrates on them most during the days around and directly after draft picks sign (generally, rookies sign within a week of the opening of training camp).
Oddly enough, I've stated on this space for a year now that the team would wait to lock up Julius Peppers before they would put attention into Gross' deal; now, of course, it appears that Gross is the long term option and that they'll get a deal into him first. Doing so would also allow two things - give Peppers a year to respond to a down year in 2007, and give the franchise tag back for use on Peppers if necessary (which buys even more time, if necessary).
The team does also need to consider a long term deal for Thomas Davis, a rare talent at SLB that is currently playing with two years left on a contract. Getting him under contract long term quickly takes care of LB for a long time (Jon Beason is obviously still very early in a rookie deal) and gets Davis in at a rate before he becomes a star. As the deal for Landon Johnson showed, the LB market isn't a hefty market anyway, so locking him up long term wouldn't likely be more than $4 million a year (still a very good raise for Davis, and very economical considering what defenders will cost in 2010).