The Carolina Panthers have one of the NFL’s nastiest front sevens with Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, and Kawann Short wreaking havoc on offensive lines and backfields alike. That group could take a big hit this offseason if the Panthers cannot keep “The Kraken”, who is a prime candidate for the franchise tag due to his value and expected cost. Panthers fans are familiar with tagging high-priced defensive ends, and they can only hope that this star DE decides to stay in Charlotte for the long haul.
According to the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person, Greg Hardy would like to receive a bigger contract than the one Johnson received during the lockout-shortened offseason a few years ago. Johnson has been one of the best and most consistent pass rushers in the game, and he was given a six-year,$78 million deal. Hardy will also be paid handsomely this offseason, and the fact that he wants more money than Johnson is worrisome but also not surprising.
Not only do free agents become more expensive each year, but a convincing argument can be made that Hardy is the better impending free agent than Johnson was. Although Hardy doesn’t put pressure on the QB as consistently as Johnson does, he also generates more sacks and is much better in run defense; there are very little players in this league who rush the passer and play the run as well as the 25-year-old does.
I’m sure the Panthers would love to keep Hardy, and they will probably be forced to tag him. They simply don’t have the cap flexibility to commit a large amount of money to Hardy, who will almost certainly command a monster deal and seems dead-set on hitting the free agent market. A hometown discount? That most likely won’t be close to enough. Call me cynical, but I don’t think Hardy will be back in Carolina on a long-term deal. Not only do they have a whole lot of money tied up in Johnson, but Dave Gettleman- thank goodness- isn’t as trigger-happy as Marty Hurney was with big contracts. Hopefully the Panthers can keep Hardy around, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.