Greg Hardy finished the year strong - 46% of his sacks coming in the
last two regular season games.
The week before, he was talking hometown discount and staying. After,
those seven sacks and a Pro Bowl bid may have inflated him past the
point of reasonability. I'm sure Leigh Steinberg (who may as well be on
Panthers' payroll after the 2011 spending sprees) isn't going to go easy
on anyone after that two week span legitimized Hardy's dream contract.
But, does that price Carolina out?
Carolina seems destined toward using the franchise tag on the moody
Hardy. I doubt a quick deal will get done, and that's the next step.
Carolina could let him walk, of course. They get nothing in return.
They also don't have to spend almost $12 million in cap on a guy with no
long term security.
Holding him in the cap hell of the franchise tag could be harmful in
other ways. If he's not eventually on the team, it's impossible to be
compensated for holding all that money that could've otherwise been
spent on replacements. Which, to get to a point, is the issue at hand.
Can Carolina afford to make this deal? After a certain price point, it
will be tough to simply squeeze Hardy and Cam Newton contracts into the
$17 million that's available and have room for other things (like the
tons of other free agents or the seven 2013 starters that are free
And while holding off the Cam decision is possible, it's nothing I'd
want. They can, before the draft, choose to extend Newton's contract by
the one year deal written in, which is essentially a franchise tag.
That buys them 2014 and 2015 to do a new deal, which comes with one
He doesn't cost anything extra this year.
But that comes at potential long term security issues there - and at
best, if you get a deal done, it's had an extra year or two to get
higher. I know that QB deals have escalated significantly in the last
two years, and that's not going to get better suddenly. At least DE
deals have been reasonable in some form, where guys like Cliff Avril and
Michael Bennett took one year deals but remained productive.
Which, that's another situation. If Bennett is a similar player, and
cost under $5 million last year, the dropoff is minimal (8.5 sacks, not
much older, and he's a good all around defender like Hardy is). If a
long term deal is $8 million, which is what Carolina tried to get Hardy
to sign in the preseason, the difference between the two becomes Captain
So which is better? Hard to say. I think, if you can reasonably
deal with Hardy, make it happen and move on. He's a key piece. If not,
get someone less expensive and keep moving.