3:52pm: The Panthers have officially placed the franchise tag on Hardy, according to a team release.
“The franchise mechanism gives us time to secure the services of a very good player while we continue to look at the future of Greg with the Carolina Panthers,” GM Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “We have had great dialogue with both Greg and his agent. It was important to keep our defensive front together.”
3:01pm: The Panthers have notified defensive end Greg Hardy that they’ll use the franchise tag on him prior to Monday’s deadline, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (via Twitter). The designation will keep Hardy from becoming an unrestricted free agent if the two sides haven’t reached a longer-term agreement by March 11.
Hardy, considered one of the top free agents available this offseason, if not the very best, has been engaged in talks with the Panthers about a long-term deal, and those talks will to continue, tweets Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Last month, Hardy expressed a willingness to give the team a “small” discount, but it will still take a significant commitment to keep him in Carolina on a multiyear deal.
The 25-year-old has racked up 26 total sacks in the last two seasons, and ranked as the third-best and sixth-best 4-3 defensive end in those two years, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics (subscription required). Charles Johnson is on a six-year contract with the Panthers worth $76MM, and it wouldn’t be surprise if Hardy’s price tag approaches that neighborhood.
With Monday’s deadline looming, teams are starting to make decisions on their franchise players. Besides Hardy, Jimmy Graham is on track to be designated as a franchise player by the Saints, and kicker Nick Folk has already received the Jets’ tag.