Feb 1, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera receivers the AP Coach of the Year award at the 3rd NFL Honors at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Friday Fan Mail: Is Rivera's future in Carolina secure?

Welcome to the 4th edition of Friday Fan Mail! I’m your host, Bobby Agnese. I’ve compiled inquiries from the best Panthers fans on the web, and have answered the questions you’ve been dying to know. It’s the Q&A you can look forward to every Friday. Lets get started:

Jay Cunningham asks: “What can the Panthers [do with Hardy] moving forward?”

Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) reacts. The Panthers defeated the Jets 30-20 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many outcomes that could result from Hardy’s legal issues, that there’s only one thing we know for a fact: the Panthers are screwed.

Thanks to Hardy and his terrible decisions, Dave Gettleman has his hands tied when it comes to getting that 13.1 million dollars worth of a franchise tag back in his pocket. Most likely, Hardy will play out the season, and the Panthers won’t bother re-signing him in 2015. However, there are a couple of other options:

1) The Panthers could try and trade him. However, this would prove to be nearly impossible. Along with his legal issues, asking another team to shoulder his heavy cap number is simply implausible.

2) They could claim Hardy has violated his contract through his conviction. The remaining money of Hardy’s contract would be returned, and the Panthers’ cap situation would benefit greatly. This method, however, would probably take an eternity, thanks to all the legal hoops the Panthers would have to jump through. Most likely, a decision wouldn’t even be reached for months.

For the record, I was never for tagging the defensive end. He’s had his troubles in the past, and we’re essentially renting him for a year. I would have let Hardy walk, drafted a solid replacement (see: Ealy, Kony), and put that $13.1 million to good use. What’s done is done, and Dave Gettleman has to sleep in the bed he’s made.

The only good news that has risen from this dumpster fire is that Goodell and his goons are monitoring Hardy’s case, a.k.a most likely waiting for the appeal process to play out. Luckily for Carolina, a trial by jury could be months from now, and the court date taking place after the 2014 season isn’t unlikely. Therefore, Hardy’s talent could contribute to the Panthers’ mission for a ring, and when 2015 free agency begins, he’ll be pushed out the door.

By the way, the Panthers COULD suspend Hardy for a few games during the season, and have a portion of the $13.1 million refunded for each game. I don’t see that being likely, as the defense would appreciate his help for as many match-ups as possible.

Jonathan McDowell asks: Has Rivera locked down his job or does another losing season show that 2013 was a fluke and put him in jeopardy?”

Despite Riverboat Ron recently signing a contract extension through 2017, Rivera’s future with the Panthers is far from guaranteed. In fact, pending the teams’ success in 2014, Rivera could very well find himself on the hot seat again next year.

The most kind adjective to describe Ron’s coaching stint with Carolina would be ‘inconsistent’. Although the 2013 Coach of the Year had a huge bounce-back season in ’13, there’s no ignoring his track record. One winning season out of three isn’t an achievement you would proudly display on your resume, and another below .500 journey in 2014 could result in termination.

Fortunately, I think Rivera and the Panthers are a perfect fit. The head coach had some growing pains during his first two seasons on the job, as many novice HCs do. Everything clicked last year, however, as he led Carolina to a playoff berth. His players truly love him, and he represents everything owner Jerry Richardson stands for. Another losing season in 2014 is unlikely, and his 25-23 coaching record should only be improved upon.

That’s a wrap! I want to thank all of you very much for submitting all of your questions for the 4th edition of Friday Fan Mail! Make sure you tune in next week, and if you have any questions you’d like me to answer next Friday, be sure to contact me through Facebook, or Twitter @bobbyagnese.


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