The Panthers defense exploded onto the scene last year. Most thought they would be good, if not very good, but their season was nothing short of great. Praise can easily be handed out to many of the members of Carolina’s defense, but Greg Hardy should be close to the top of the list.
Having a monster season with 15 sacks, tying Kevin Greene’s franchise record, Hardy is now entering an offseason where he should be expecting a major payday as an impending free agent. While the Panthers would love to be the team to give him his contract, there is just no way to justify doing so.
This Panthers team is extremely young and undeniably talented, which led to a surprise 12-4 season. Part of their success has to be attributed to the fact that many of their top contributors are playing at all-pro levels while on rookie contracts. Carolina’s front office has been living in a fantasy world where elite athletes make backup money. Now, major decisions are going to have to be made as to who is absolutely worth their limited cap dollars.
With Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei all with massive deals on the horizon, Hardy looks to be one of the Panthers first salary cap sacrifices.
Carolina is projected to have $16 million of cap space heading into the 2014 season, which is quite a lot given that plenty of teams are sitting above the $126.3 million ceiling. Still, even if the Panthers gave Hardy the franchise tag, it would put roughly a $12 million dent in their cap space.
Back in 2010, Panthers management already proved they were willing to part ways with an elite pass-rusher when they let Julius Peppers walk. If Hardy doesn’t follow in his footsteps, than Carolina will undoubtedly be by handicapped in the future.
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