Why Signing Greg Hardy Would be Disastrous for the Carolina Panthers

Release the Kraken! No, really, I mean it. Let him go. I know, it feels weird hearing it.  Hell, it even feels weird saying it--but it’s the truth. Paying Greg Hardy the “crapload” of money he deserves, and will get, would be disastrous for the Carolina Panthers.

To be sure, a lot of Panther fans will hate me for saying this. Those same fans are screaming right now that if Gettleman can make the money happen, ink the damn deal despite the costs. In their minds, signing Hardy would cement the Panthers’ defensive front four among the NFL’s best for many years to come. Locking up the Kraken would create defensive front dominance, but it would also stunt Carolina’s long-term success. 

After notching 26 sacks over the last two seasons, it’s Hardy’s moment and he knows it.  He’s made it clear that he wants what he “deserves” and that 100 million isn't an absurd or “imaginary” figure in his mind.  Sure 100m is the starting negotiating figure that will surely shrink, but you can bet Hardy believes he should get a deal similar to the one that landed his counterpart, Charles Johnson, the nickname “Big Money.” Johnson secured his big payday,  6yr/76m with 32m guaranteed, after registering an 11.5 sack season.  With 11 sacks in 2012 and 15 sacks in 2013, Hardy’s call for “big money” doesn't seem so “imaginary.” 

greg hardy krakenDespite Carolina’s success this season, depth has been the problem over the last decade. There just haven't been enough guys waiting in line to get their shot.  Consistently competitive teams over the last decade have had depth.  Offensive and defensive juggernauts, like the Patriots and the Ravens, never seem to fall off, regardless of who retired, left for free agency, or sustained injury. These teams’ long-term success has not been because of one player, but instead because of the endless stream of guys that step up when their number is called. 

The Panthers are clearly not the football factory that these teams have been. Quite the opposite, Carolina has never had consecutive winning seasons, greatly because they always seem to be dealing with that one insurmountable injury. Whether it was Smitty’s broken leg in the pre-season, Thomas Davis’s knee(s), Gamble’s shoulder, Stewart’s ankle, or Beason’s achilles, weathering the storm has been impossible at times.  These stars’ importance was only exacerbated by the lack of guys that could step up and make an impact when they were down. This season only replayed this saga when Charles Johnson and, later, Steve Smith went down.  Carolina’s defense never regained that same tenaciousness and the offense became anemic without its only stable part.

Dumping 150m in two defensive ends would devastate Carolina’s ability to build depth around the team’s new franchise stars, and there are a lot of them! Carolina has some pieces that we know are going to be great.  Newton, Kuechly, Star, and K-Short aren’t projects--they are great now. Tying up too much money in one position will prevent that from happening.

Those who disagree that paying Hardy what he deserves will stunt Carolina’s developmental potential will point to NFL teams’ ability to cut and run from these big contracts.  “Just cut ‘em” if production falls off in a few years they will say.  Big Money Johnson didn't earn his nickname from the sum of his contract in 2011 though. No, no, he cashed that in with the $32m guaranteed dollars of his contract.  Hardy knows that the guaranteed money is the important figure.  The 100 million sum will be negotiable, but we all know that a “crapload” of dollars will be guaranteed.  

There has been chatter about franchise tagging and then trading the “Kraken” to avoid losing him to free agency entirely. Originally, I didn't think this was much of a possibility because of the 12m tag, plus the draft picks the other team would have to pay up. It’s kind of like flipping a house when you really don’t have the money. It works well in theory, but if you get stuck with the mortgage longer than you hoped, it stretches you mightily thin. Panther fans have started  to weaken my skepticism about the tag and trade as of late, however. Many suggest that Hardy can be franchised and then traded for a mid-round pick. As long as Carolina doesn’t attempt to extort a team for an overly high draft pick, it may not be as impossible as I had first thought. The hard part is finding a team with the money, and the draft picks, to make the deal happen though.

kraken greg hardyGet ready to RELEASE THE KRAKEN Panther fans! There really isn't much choice in the matter.  At this point it’s really about how much it hurts.  At it’s best, Carolina can get a mid round draft pick for him, and at it’s worst, Hardy ends up playing for a team in our division!  That’s the thought that makes me break into cold sweats.  Hearing RELEASE THE KRAKEN from a divisional rival would be terrifying, especially given the state of Carolina’s offensive line.  It’s unlikely this will happen, but NFC South fans are giddy at the thought in the message boards.

Hardy’s recent publicity tour from Hawaii to New Jersey has only fanned the rumor mill fire. At the Pro Bowl, JoeBucFan.com asked Hardy  how he’d like “to play with a guy like Gerald McCoy?”  JoeBucFan pointed out that Hardy didn’t give the standard Carolina company line when he responded:

I love a guy like that, man. He gets off fast. He knows how to get to the quarterback. And he keeps them on the move. For guys like me, that’s a dream.

Hardy has brilliantly played his cards as a free agent this season.  He dominated on the field and also excelled at the Hawgart’s Self-Promotion Academy this season.   Hope that Hardy gets his well deserved money somewhere other than the NFC South--maybe Jacksonville, Oakland, or Minnesota

So Panther fans, hedge your bets  today or with the future.  Release the Kraken today, and bet on a future built around Johnson, Star, K-Short, Kuechly, and Newton, or sign him and pay for it tomorrow.