Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer writes that even with close to $16 million in available cap space this offseason, there is a very real chance that the Panthers could be forced to allow DE Greg Hardy to walk in free agency.
Hardy has previously mentioned that he’s looking for a “crapload of money” with his next contract and some believe he could be targeting a similar contract to that of fellow DE Charles Johnson who is the highest paid player in the history of the franchise (six years, $78 million, $32 million guaranteed).
Person adds that the Panthers not only have other needs to address on their roster, but they will also need more cap space to address some of core young talent like QB Cam Newton and ILB Luke Kuechly at some point.
Person floats the idea that Carolina could franchise Hardy and they look to trade him for more than the third-round compensatory pick they would get in 2015 for allowing him to sign elsewhere.
Interestingly enough, Person mentions that the Falcons and Buccaneers could both be potential landing spots for Hardy if he indeed reaches the open market. This could be another reason to consider the tag-and-trade approach.
Hardy is coming off a 15 sack season and has mentioned that he no issues with the Panthers franchising him during the offseason, but that is a large some of guaranteed money, so Carolina would need to have a plan in place to either trade him or create space elsewhere while reducing that figure with a long-term deal.
Undoubtedly, the Panthers would like to keep Hardy, but he is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, who is known for steering his clients towards the most lucrative deal. We’ll have to see what they elect to do in the coming weeks.