Panthers likely to use franchise tag on OL Kalil or DE Johnson

While the Carolina Panthers' decision on how to use the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft receives greater attention and speculation from the media, a more pressing matter internally is how to use the franchise tag.

The Panthers intend to place it on a player next week before team officials depart for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, a league source said Friday.

Three players -- running back DeAngelo Williams, center Ryan Kalil and defensive end Charles Johnson -- are being considered for the tag. A source indicated that the Panthers likely will tag one of the linemen, although they hope to keep all three potential free agents.

Kalil is one of the NFL's premier young centers, and Carolina always has placed an emphasis on building teams from the inside out.

Johnson had a productive 2010 season after receiving additional playing time, helping to fill part of the void left by Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers' free-agent departure.

According to the source, the value of the franchise tag -- even with $10 million guaranteed for offensive linemen, a very high total for a center -- isn't a factor. The bigger concern is trying to determine which player to protect against the open market.

The Panthers aren't in active contract negotiations with these players, according to sources. The team is waiting to assess the collective bargaining agreement situation before making offers and entering into significant talks.

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