The Carolina Panthers have applied the franchise tag to right tackle Taylor Moton, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The move comes just hours before the 4 p.m. franchise tag deadline and will allow the two sides to continue negotiations into a long-term contract extension.
With the salary cap yet to be finalized, the projected number for the franchise tag is $13.602 million for the offensive tackle position. Moton, a four-year veteran, was the 12th-ranked player on PFF's free agency rankings.
Moton has been the model of consistency over the last three years, grading “in the green” every year as a starter. He performs well in the parts of offensive line play that translate well moving forward, including ranking in the 90th percentile in PFF pass-blocking grade on true pass sets since 2018.
Moton is scheme diverse as a run-blocker. He can move defenders at the point of attack as well as make the necessary backside cutoffs in a zone-heavy scheme. He ranks well above average at avoiding negatively graded plays in the run game, another one of the more stable measures of offensive tackle play.
Dependability is the name of the game for Moton, who has quietly been one of the most valuable tackles in the league since 2018.
What it means for the Carolina Panthers
Carolina appears set to lose starting left tackle Russell Okung to free agency unless the two sides can work out a deal. Given that uncertainty, retaining Moton, the Panthers’ best and most consistent offensive lineman, became a clear priority for the team.
What it means for Moton and the right tackle market
Moton was the potential prize free agent at tackle this offseason. The group has a handful of good players, including San Francisco 49ers star Trent Williams, the aforementioned Russell Okung and Pittsburgh’s Alejandro Villanueva. However, all of these players will be 33 years old in Week 1 of 2021, whereas Moton will be 27.
Moton was arguably the player most impacted by the drop in the 2021 salary cap because the franchise tag numbers — which are calculated with the salary cap serving as one input — also dropped.
If the 2021 cap had hypothetically been $210 million, the OL franchise tag would have been around $16 million, and perhaps the two sides could have agreed to an extension right around or slightly below that number. Now, with the OL franchise tag set to land around $13.75 million, Carolina gets a solid discount and is potentially negotiating from a lower per-year number than Moton and his representation are willing to accept.
Carolina would still be very wise to work toward a long-term deal with Moton. An early extension for New Orleans Saints right tackle Ryan Ramczyk — which seems likely this offseason — will push the market at right tackle even higher.
Beating their NFC South rival to market would make a lot of sense, even if Carolina feels they’re “overpaying” slightly in the short-term.