As anticipated, Ryan Kalil is the Panthers' 2011 franchise player.
Kalil, along with Deangelo Williams and Charles Johnson, were logical candidates. Without any ability to negotiate, it looks like they went with the player they could least afford to replace, but the major news orgs state they want to keep all three, and have already said they want Thomas Davis, too.
Kalil will cost around $10 Million as a franchise player, which hopefully will just mean they'll have time to work on a deal (preferaby after they wrap up the other three). A long term deal, which will likely eclipse these deals, will probably cost $8 million or more.
Prior attempts at a Kalil contract would've been thwarted by the 30% rule, stating that salary can't increase from a final year salary to a new contract salary by more than 30%. That would've caused exorbitant signing and option bonus money. Consider:
Kalil, for sake of clean math, would make $500k in his final year, meaning he'd not be able to get more than $650,000 in salary. Given that interior linemen at his level now go for $8 million or so, almost all of that money per year would come from bonus. $8 million over a term of 4 years is $32 million, and only $4 million would be base salary. That's an exceptional amount of contract guarantee, unheard of honesty. Since that money is guaranteed, Carolina would have no recourse if they had to cut or trade Kalil - that money just counts against the cap and accelerates if he's moved.
Now, the CBA won't likely have such a stupid clause in it from next year, but until now, that would've been what Carolina would need to work under.
So, the old CBA rules continue to screw Carolina, but if they can get at least two of these guys back along with Davis, they'll at least have come out of the aftermath younger, with a little cap room.