Center Ryan Kalil was the obvious favorite to have the franchise tag applied.
When Jon Beason showed up in 2007, there was nothing about him that suggested he was a rookie. Carolina took Kalil in the second round of the same draft. Although he wasn't as dynamic as Beason -- is a center allowed to be dynamic? -- he, too, was fully formed when he reported for his first mini-camp.
Charles Johnson also was a candidate for the franchise tag.
I never thought DeAngelo Williams was. Williams has twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards. But he touched the ball more as a senior at Memphis than some backs do their college careers, and he finished the last two seasons for Carolina on injured reserved. He also plays a position at which Carolina is deep. Jonathan Stewart's talent is undeniable and Mike Goodson no longer is a back-up, as his work last season attests.
The Panthers have 28 free-agents and I don't know how many they'll attempt to sign. But once a collective bargaining agreement is reached, the emphasis will be on retaining players rather than hiring free-agents. They'll keep what they have rather than recruit outsiders. The one lock is linebacker Thomas Davis. Despite his recent injuries, Carolina won't let him go.
The free-agent exception is quarterback. The Panthers aren't going into 2011 with only second-year quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Although they believe in Clausen, they don't want him to start, and they'll bring in a veteran.
Love to be able to tell you who the veteran will be. I don't know yet.