On Monday, the annual window for applying the franchise tag closed. On Tuesday, one of the four tagged players already made his move to embrace the restriction on his ability to hit the market.
Per a league source, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has signed his one-year, $13.116 million franchise tender. Hardy hopes to ultimately parlay the franchise tender into a long-term deal.
The move puts Hardy under contract for 2014, preventing him from flirting with another team and ultimately signing an offer sheet with a team willing to give up two first-round draft picks if the offer isn’t matched.
It also prevents the Panthers from rescinding the tender and forces the Panthers to fund the full amount of the guaranteed salary — and also to carry $13.116 million in Hardy’s name under the salary cap. The only way the Panthers can now eliminate the $13.116 million cap burden is to trade Hardy.
It’s not unprecedented for teams to rescind a franchise tender after the bulk of free agency has transpired. The Eagles did it twice during the last decade, to linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive lineman Corey Simon.
From Hardy’s perspective, getting $13.116 million represents a huge payday, especially in light of the fact that he made $2.75 million over the entire four years under his rookie contract.
In signing the tender, Hardy gives up the ability to hold out of training camp without being fined $30,000 per day, since he’s under contract. By the time training camp opens, however, the July 15 window for signing the franchise player to a long-term deal will have closed.
The real question for Hardy becomes whether he’ll participate in the offseason program without a long-term deal. Much of it is voluntary, and the only mandatory aspect comes via a three-day minicamp. Hardy can pay the fairly low fine for not showing up for the lone involuntary camp, if that’s what he thinks he needs to do in order to get the kind of long-term deal he wants.