More franchise tags on the way?

The Carolina Panthers went ahead and used the franchise tag on center Ryan Kalil. As Thursday’s deadline for using the tag approaches, it looks more and more like the Panthers will be the only NFC South team using this tactic.

It’s been widely reported that the Atlanta Falcons aren’t planning to use their tag, which makes sense because none of their free agents are close to the level of a franchise player. That leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

The agent for Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph has said he’s been told the Bucs won’t use the tag on his client. That leaves linebacker Barrett Ruud as the only realistic candidate. The Bucs could tag Ruud, but that seems unlikely. Tampa Bay has used the tag only once in franchise history. Ruud is a player who’s been seeking a long-term contract for two years and the Bucs haven’t given it to him. They simply may let Ruud test free agency.

New Orleans guard Carl Nicks looks like a candidate for the tag. He’s developed into one of the league’s best guards. But, depending on how things shake out, the franchise tag might be unnecessary for Nicks. Depending on the structure of a labor deal, Nicks could end up being classified as a restricted free agent.

Speaking of the labor deal, it remains to be seen how much weight franchise tags carry this year. The league and its teams are saying the tags are valid. But the players’ union is saying the franchise tag doesn’t exist this year. It might be a moot point anyway. If there is a lockout, there won’t be any free agency until it’s over. And we won’t know what franchise tags mean in a new agreement until there is one.