Early in the offseason, there were reports that defensive end Greg Hardy had approached the Panthers about extending his contract.
The timing made sense as Hardy was entering the final year of his contract after racking up 11 sacks last season, but there wasn’t much other word out of Charlotte about a deal being in the works. Now, though, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that talks are under way between the two sides.
The timing makes even more sense now that Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman has created about $12 million in cap space after starting the offseason needing to cut more than that to get under the cap in the first place. The Panthers don’t have any players with more pressing immediate contract issues than Hardy, which means that the biggest stumbling block is likely to be compensation.
It was a soft market for pass rushers this offseason and the Panthers know that they can use the franchise tag if they aren’t able to reach an agreement on a new deal. Carolina might want to use that option as a safety valve to make sure Hardy’s 2012 breakout is sustainable, although that could backfire on them if Hardy reaches his goal of 50 sacks for the season.
Not much chance of that, but he makes an effective partner for Charles Johnson in a pass rush all the same. Given the importance of a good pass rush to defensive success in the current NFL, that should be enough to keep Hardy in Carolina one way or another.