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Panthers May Have A Tough Time Retaining DE Greg Hardy

Carolina Panthers DE Greg Hardy has quickly established himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the league, and is arguably the top free agent available this offseason.

While Hardy has emerged as one of the Panther’s best defensive players, they may have a difficult time keeping him in Carolina next season.

Panthers GM Dave Gettleman acknowledged the difficulty in retaining such a dynamic player given their cap situation this offseason.

“Everybody lets players go. There isn’t a team in this league that hasn’t let a big dog walk out the door. And don’t print that I’m saying that he’s going to go,” Gettleman said, via the Charlotte Observer. “I’m just making a statement. There isn’t anybody that hasn’t done that. It’s a whole big puzzle we’re putting together and he’s one of the pieces.”

Greg Hardy is coming off a 15 sack season, and is in line for a major pay increase.  Carolina should have roughly $16 million in available cap space to work with, but a long-term deal could run them as much as $70 million with $40 million of that guaranteed.  Applying the franchise tag to Hardy could also be an option, but that too would likely cost the Panthers close to $12.6 million fully guaranteed next season.

Hardy, 25, has mentioned that he no issues with the Panthers franchising him during the offseason, but that is a large some of guaranteed money, so it would make sense for Carolina to consider a long-term that would limit his 2014 cap figure.

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.

Pro Football Focus has Hardy rated as the No. 6 4-3 defensive end in 2013. We have him listed as the No. 2 player in our Top 50 Free Agents list.