Carolina's only used the franchise tag a few times - and it somewhat
relates to how they're in their current mess. I'll add a little
commentary along the way.
Starting out, Carolina didn't use the franchise tag option for years -
their first chance at the process was the ill-fated signing of someone
else's franchise player - Washington DT Sean Gilbert. It was a rare use
of the full process for Carolina, opting to send two future #1 picks
instead of the supposed deal Washington suggested, the 14 pick (which
should've gone to an OT
Carolina's first chance for using it would've been for OT Blake
Brockermeyer in 1999. Carolina was cap strapped, and I honestly don't
remember whether there were serious negotiations with Brockermeyer. The
franchise tag would've been cap prohibitive - the level of player
involved there included very minor signings like Steve Tovar, and the
biggest contract I believe was the one year, $1.2 million deal to
Patrick Jeffers (to my knowledge, the only RFA signing Carolina has ever
stolen - correct me if I'm wrong).
This relates back to 1998 for various reasons - Dom Capers had rapidly
overspent cap space, and he'd overextended for little return on the
various DL he'd put in. Had he drafted just one good lineman out of
various wasted picks in 1997, 1998 instead of chasing more front seven
players, George Seifert wouldn't have been patching up a line with the
likes of Clarence Jones, dropping a 2nd rounder on Chris Terry, or
having to sign Nate Newton on his last legs (truth be told I was never
really happy with the overly soft pair of Frank Garcia and Matt Campbell
So, long story short, Brockermeyer walked, and wasn't effectively
replaced until Todd Steussie in 2001, well after plenty of damage had
been done to Steve Beuerlein.
So, it makes sense that since the first franchise tag Carolina used was
under John Fox, that they'd have tagged a punter. Todd Sauerbrun was
tagged in 2003, and after signing a new deal, was gone by 2005 (in a
great trade, that gave Carolina a late pick plus six good years out of
Jason Baker, and then one terrible year out of Jason Baker, which led to
Carolina actually drafting a punter).
Nothing happened again for a while - they did transition tag Deshaun
Foster coming off his rookie deal, and in the most true narrative you
could ever find for Carolina, they were tagging a running back who was
in a hospital bed. Foster had been hurt after two preseason carries in
2002, missed most of 2004, and here he was, after getting hurt in 2005,
transition tagged in 2006. He'd make it through the end of 2007,
spawning the current running back logjam.
Carolina waited through 2008, this time tagging Jordan Gross. He
played the year out with the tag, but then came to an agreement. That
deal, plus a late 2008 deal with Chris Gamble, were both designed with
the specific intent of keeping both players and giving the team
flexibility with Julius Peppers. And of course, Peppers never signed.
So, in '09, he was tagged. And that didn't work out so well. So far,
the $17 million Peppers earned has been the single biggest salary
Carolina has ever paid, but it was for naught - I don't know how eagerly
Carolina tried to trade, but clearly Peppers had a very small list of
teams that he'd play for. And none of them bit. So a year later,
Peppers walking directly caused various dominos to fall, and 2010 became
That 2010 spending freeze helped cause 2011. Carolina had tons of
pending free agents right on the eve of the weirdest free agent period
in league history - coming off an uncapped year, and without the ability
to pre-negotiate with their own free agents, Carolina had to choose.
Charles Johnson, Ryan Kalil, or Deangelo Williams?
So they chose Kalil obviously, and threw tons of money at the other two
(and any other Panther who Drew Rosenhaus repped). And now we're in cap
hell. Of course, that's not related to the use of the tag - to choose
to keep one guy which has worked out more or less - it's related to
overspending in general, and whether or not it was necessary to keep
It's also just related to luck - having to sign Johnson because you
hadn't signed Peppers, made more difficult by Peppers himself but not
helped by the CBA; choosing to sign everyone you can keep to not look
cheap, and maybe being prideful that it wasn't the roster, it was the
coach; and honestly, just the bad luck of not getting to sign Kalil or
Jon Beason in 2009 when it would've been much cheaper.
So, that's the tag. They're not tagging anyone this year, obviously,
and without enough good talent coming out of the 2009-11 drafts, they
won't tag anyone in the near future either. Unless Brandon LaFell
somehow explodes into an amazing receiver as the 3rd option in a more
run-based attack this year, Greg Hardy is the only high value player
with less than two years left on a deal, and Hardy would be expensive
The new CBA provides an option year for first round picks, and that
would hold off Cam Newton through the end of 2015 if no other
negotiation happens; same for Luke Kuechly at the end of 2016.
Now, in general, I'd caution the use of the tag. Trades rarely happen
with the tag; I'm looking back at the 2008-2010 franchisees, and not
that many of them remain impact players. Gross is allright, Jared Allen
still matters, and Terrell Suggs is still relevant, from '08; Suggs and
Peppers from '09, and you could argue Darren Sproles; Only Richard
Seymour still impacts from 2010; Haloti Ngata, Peyton Manning, Kalil,
and maybe Marcedes Lewis from only two seasons ago. That's out of 33
tags. Last year's list is more relevant, but in general, a kept
franchise player has to impact you longterm.
So, in my opinion, tagging anyone over 30 should be for short term use
(keeping a Wes Welker, but not wanting to pay him longterm) or QBs (the
new fad is kickers, and age tends to be irrelevant for the position), or
anyone you're willing to be stuck with for six more years.