With less than three days remaining in the two-week window for using the franchise tag, no team has applied the primary restriction on otherwise unrestricted free agency.
And while the Panthers haven’t officially used it yet on defensive end Greg Hardy, the team has told Hardy that it will.
Per a league source, the Panthers have informed Hardy that the tag will be applied before Monday’s deadline for using it. He’ll be entitled to a one-year guaranteed salary of roughly $12 million, if/when he accepts the tender.
The Panthers have rescind the tender at any time, making Hardy a free agent. The Panthers also can trade Hardy to another team.
The $10 million increase in the salary cap, coupled with the Panthers clearing more than $7 million in cap space via restructurings, makes it easier to carry Hardy at an eight-figure cap number. A long-term deal would undoubtedly reduce the cap charge for 2014. Trading him would drive it all the way to zero.
The Panthers also could try to create some cap space by restructuring the contract of defensive end Charles Johnson. His cap number currently exceeds $16 million.
The use of the tag on Hardy, who racked up 26 sacks over the last two years combined, means that the team’s other unrestricted free agents will hit the open market on March 11.