Panthers Could Let Hardy Walk

In a year’s time, Panthers second-year GM Dave Gettleman has taken the team from $16MM over the salary cap to approximately $16MM under the cap. Ostensibly, that’s enough to bring free agent defensive end Greg Hardy back into the fold, be it on a long-term deal or one-year franchise tender, but it’s not that simple, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person.

Hardy’s bookend, veteran sack artist Charles Johnson, carries a team-high $16.24MM cap hit in 2014. So while retaining a budding pass rusher seems like an obvious move, sacrificing Hardy to maintain financial flexibility is a realistic scenario. Person also floats the idea of a “tag-and-trade” scenario, which would garner better compensation than the Panthers would receive if they just let Hardy sign elsewhere.

Also factoring in the decision is the uncertainty of left tackle Jordan Gross‘ future, looming big-money extensions for young stars Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly and other current free-agent priorities, including cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. Person points out that Gettleman got creative last year by cutting veterans and restructuring others. If he goes that route again, safety Charles Godfrey, recovering from an Achilles injury, could be on the chopping block. Releasing Godfrey before June 1 would recoup $2.1MM in cap space, or $5.1MM post June 1.

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