CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday during an appearance on ESPN's NFL Insiders that the organization probably will have to use the franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short.
Short is an unrestricted free agent after the Panthers couldn't reach a long-term deal with him prior to the 2016 season.
Rivera said general manager Dave Gettleman already has had salary-cap meetings, and the best way to guarantee Short remains on the roster is with the tag.
"Obviously, we'll probably have to tag him,'' Rivera said. "But if we do, so be it. If not, I think they can get a deal done and I'm pretty optimistic about that because KK is a big part of what we do.
"Again, we believe up front is the most important part of your team. You've got to be able to stop the run, rush the passer, and I think KK is one of those guys who has that kind of ability."
The estimated tag for a defensive tackle in 2017 is $13.5 million. Short, who led Carolina with 11 sacks in 2015, was believed to have been seeking a deal similar to the $17.1 million per year the Philadelphia Eagles gave Fletcher Cox last year.
Short, Carolina's second-round pick in 2013, fell to six sacks this past season when the Panthers went 6-10.
Short said after the season finale that he would be all right with the franchise tag, although that is not his first choice.
"Everybody would like to avoid that," he said. "If it happens, it happens. If it happens, I'm still going to be professional about the situation."
Short said he doesn't plan to follow in the footsteps of former Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, who didn't sign the tag when Gettleman used it last season and didn't participate in the start of offseason workouts.
Gettleman then rescinded the tag, and Norman signed with the Washington Redskins.
"Me and Josh are two different people," Short said the day players cleaned out their lockers. "We walk two totally different sides of the street, at two totally different places, in two totally different directions.
"Me and Josh are not the same."
Short reminded that Norman "could have stayed here if he wanted.''
He also reminded, when asked if he wanted to test free agency, that he wants to remain in Carolina.
"I want to be a Carolina Panther,'' he said. "That's it."