Greg Hardy

It was a great season for the Carolina Panthers and also their defensive end Greg Hardy, but his rise to stardom and recognition league-wide this season makes it a very difficult decision for the team whether to re-sign him or not when considering other contracts they have to deal with, not to mention the price he’ll fetch.

Hardy was a second-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, setting a new Panthers record with 15 sacks, following an 11 sack season. He was twice named to be the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week and pretty much rose from being a local fan favorite to an explosive defender everybody who follows the NFL knows about.

But with that kind of rise in name comes a rise in payment expectations. The Panthers don’t have too much money under the salary cap to throw at Hardy, considering they need wide receivers, secondary players, offensive linemen upgrades and re-signing left tackle Jordan Gross, who has been with the team since 2003 and made the pro bowl last season as well. He might not command a huge contract, but keeping quality linemen is very difficult withotu spending some money.

Hardy might be franchised, but that will cost the Panthers around $12 million, which will severley hurt their cap situation. There’s the long-term deal option with back-ending the money, which sounds like the most reasonable option for them, if they’re adamant on keeping the player.

If Hardy, who is only 25, does become a free agent, he should be one of the most coveted out there if not the most. Pass rushers are always in demand, especially when they are 25, one of the best in the league at his position and without a sign of any injuries holding him back, missing only two games over the last four seasons.

Hardy was a sixth round pick and the Panthers might think about trying to get another diamond in the rough with out-of-college players, who simply went unnoticed by the scouts and under the right development and coaching can become just as productive but without the extra cost?

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