NFL teams can begin using the franchise tag on players Wednesday and it appears the Carolina Panthers are headed toward another game of tag with one of the cornerstones of their defense.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera told ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” during Super Bowl week in Houston that the team “probably” would place the franchise tag on defensive tackle Kawann Short, who is looking to become one of the highest-paid interior players in the league.
Rivera clarified his comments during an interview with the Observer later that same day, saying the tag is an option for general manager Dave Gettleman if the Panthers aren’t able to work out a long-term deal with Short.
“If he has to use the tag, he’ll use the tag,” Rivera told the Observer. “But at the end of the day, as I said, we can use the tag or we can work a deal out.”
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The Panthers were in a similar position last year with Josh Norman after failing to reach an agreement with the Pro Bowl cornerback.
They placed the tag on Norman at the March 1 deadline and planned to continue negotiating with him. But when those talks went nowhere, Gettleman had a change of heart and rescinded the tag in April.
Short told reporters in January that he would take a different tack than Norman during contract talks.
“Me and Josh are two totally different people. We walk two totally different sides of the street, at two totally different paces, in two totally different directions,” Short said. “Me and Josh are not the same.”
The estimated franchise tag for defensive tackles this year is $13.5 million.
Short also said he would “most likely” sign a tag immediately – unlike Norman – although Short’s statement was walked back by a sourced report from NBC’s Pro Football Talk later that day.
The Eagles re-set the market for defensive lineman last year when they gave Fletcher Cox a six-year deal worth $103 million, including $63 million guaranteed.
Cox finished with 6.5 sacks in 2016, down from his total of 9.5 sacks in 2015 before he signed his extension.
Short, the Panthers’ second-round pick in 2013, also saw his sacks drop this past season. After posting the highest sack total (11) ever by a Panthers defensive tackle in 2015, Short got off to a slow start in ’16 and finished with six sacks.