There is no official indication defensive end Greg Hardy will be resigned by the Carolina Panthers, but they would be insane to let him walk. The free agency period does not start until March 11th, so David Gettleman has 35 days to work out a deal with the Kraken. Gettleman recently stated that every franchise in the league has “let a big dog walk out the door.” It is a business after all, and Hardy’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is the best in the business at getting top dollar contracts.
It is no secret the Panthers are strapped for cash. As of right now Gettleman has given the Panthers 15 million dollars in cap space for the 2014 season. Hardy will likely command a vast majority, if not all of that space. A big problem in the Panthers cap issues lies in their backfield. Deangelo Williams has a cap hit of 6 million dollars, Jonathan Stewart’s is 5.5 million, and fullback Mike Tolbert’s is 3.3 million. The 2014 season will see the Panthers paying 14.8 million for their feature backs alone. If the Panthers are to resign Hardy they will have to trade either Williams or Stewart, something I fully expect Gettleman to do.
Today’s NFL is all about the passing game. Sure the Seahawks won on the backs of their defense and Marshawn Lynch, but key passes on third down by Russel Wilson allowed them to keep drives alive and better yet, keep Manning off the field. Cam needs weapons on offense, but the true strength of this team is the defense. Hardy is a big key in that as he led the league’s best sack attack unit with 15 of his own. Hardy and the defensive line were able to mask deficiencies in the secondary by giving opposing quarterbacks no time to throw. Gettleman and Rivera know this and that is why they will do everything they can to bring the Kraken back to Charlotte.
Another option to fix the cap situation is cutting Charles Godfrey. He is expected to earn 7.1 million against the cap this season, but with the emergence of Mike Mitchell, Godfrey has become expendable. Godfrey will either be cut or restructure his contract. Mike Mitchell is also a free agent, but he is affordable and likes playing in Charlotte. Expect him to be back in a Panthers uniform in 2014. Jordan Gross (and Gettleman) has not decided whether he will retire or suit up for another run at a Super Bowl. Gross’s cap hit is 5.9 million dollars. If he retires he frees up plenty of space, but I expect Jordan to be back. He will no doubt restructure his contract so that the Panthers can add weapons to a team that is only a few pieces away from a Super Bowl. Gross is the ultimate team player and the NFL allows players to lower their base pay and still receive the same amount in bonuses without hurting the cap space.
Ryan Kalil is another guy who could be up for a restructuring. His cap hit is a hefty 10.4 million. Kalil returned to All-Pro form in 2013 and deserves every bit of that money, but he too sees the importance of the team over money. Gettleman is a master at finding bargains on the free agent market while restructuring contracts. If he is able to trade one of our backs for a pick while restructuring a few contracts, there is no reason the Panthers can’t pay Hardy what he is looking for and keep this fierce defensive unit in tact. With enough moves, Gettleman may even be able to bring in a receiver through free agency, I’m looking at you Hakeem Nicks. Gettleman has proven to be an excellent GM and another solid draft will have the Panthers poised for playoff success. All we can do now is wait, but trust me Panther fans. The wait will be worth the while in 2014. You can take that to the bank.