The NFL continues to test the patience of Carolina Panthers fans and the Panthers organization. Is the NFL going to punish Greg Hardy or not? Hardy met with NFL officials on Wednesday to talk about the case but nothing was resolved. I reached out to Carolina Panthers Beat Writer David Newton, and asked him if he has heard of any updates on the Hardy situation. All he said was that it was, “Strangely Quiet.”
Well Carolina Panthers fans are being the exact opposite of quiet. They are voicing their opinion all over the internet. David Newton created a recent twitter poll asking, “Should the Panthers re-sign Greg Hardy?" Overwhelmingly 80.3 percent of the voters said that the Carolina Panthers should re-sign Hardy.
I think at this point Panther fans should be preparing to see the Panthers take the field without their star defensive lineman. Greg Hardy is only 26 years old and is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He has recorded 34 sacks in 63 games played.
Who on the team currently could step up and be the new Greg Hardy?
The Carolina Panthers need to have another plan in place for the absence of Greg Hardy. Hardy was suspended last season after only playing in one game, and it hurt the team tremendously. The defensive line was terrible at the beginning of the season, but then they eventually turned it around.
The Panthers still have Charles Johnson on the left side, but who can play the right? The only player on the current roster that could try to fill the void would be Kony Ealy.
Kony Ealy is a defensive end that played at the University of Missouri, and was the Panthers 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was brought in to be a solid back-up for CJ and The Kraken, but those plans have changed. The Panthers now need him to start on defense.
Surprisingly Ealy and Hardy are exactly the same in height at 6’4” and weight at 275 lbs. Ealy is both long and has a big frame. He is also quick off the snap, and can move like a linebacker. The only problem is that Ealy still has some learning to do. It took Hardy a few seasons to learn the position, and it might take that long for Ealy. But the Panthers can’t wait!
The Panthers are in another unfortunate situation. They might need to sign a replacement for the defensive end position.
My top three defensive ends on my free agency wish list for the Carolina Panthers:
1. Jerry Hughes – he is 26 years old and is only getting better. In the past two seasons he has recorded a total of 19 sacks and has played real well with Mario Williams. Why not pair him with Charles Johnson? Hughes may be undersized but his athleticism makes up for that. He is tough, durable, and can disrupt the rush.
2. Osi Umenyiora – he is 33 years old, but I think that the Panthers could use his services for one or two years. He could fill the void until the Panthers find the answer in the next NFL draft or free agency. He still has the ability to get to the quarterback and dominant upfront. His sack total has dropped off in the past two seasons but he could be a deadly duo with Ealy.
3. Da’Quan Bowers - he is already familiar with the NFC South because he has been playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has had a disappointing start to his career by only recording seven sacks, fighting through injuries, and being suspended for a PED violation. I think that if Bowers gets a change of scenery he could live up to his potential. Coming into the draft he was labeled as a franchise NFL defensive end with the ability to dominate the line. This sign might be risky, but it could pay off.
Can Kony Ealy replace Greg Hardy or will they need to look somewhere else for answers?
By, Justin Raymond
Follow Me On Twitter @JayRay19