The bad news for the Panthers and defensive end Greg Hardy is that, when they face the Seahawks tonight in Seattle, Hardy still won’t be able to play due to: (1) his placement on the Commissioner-Exempt list pending the resolution of domestic violence charges; and (2) the delay of his trial date from November 2014 into 2015.
The good news for Hardy (but not necessarily for the Panthers) is that Hardy finally has a new trial date. Per a league source, his trial will happen on February 9.
It means that his criminal case will be resolved — and possibly his status with the NFL — before free agency opens in March. Which means that there will be no uncertainty when Hardy hits the open market.
The Panthers applied the franchise tag to Hardy in 2014, paying him $13.1 million for one season. The Panthers ultimately paid him every dollar, but received his services for only one game.
Hardy previously had a trial before a judge that resulted in a finding of guilt. Wrongly dubbed by pretty much everyone in the media as a “conviction,” it was actually a preliminary stage that gives Hardy a chance to force the prosecution to show its hand before the actual jury trial.
Regardless, the NFL’s new approach to violent crimes results in players being placed on paid leave pending the resolution of formal charges. And the NFL stubbornly insists that paid leave doesn’t constitute discipline — even though it keeps the player from doing what he wants to do.
For Hardy, it also means that he had no chance to put together the kind of performance that could have gotten him a major contract offer in free agency. For the Panthers, it means they had to navigate most of the season without the benefit of one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
To the team’s credit, the Panthers still made it to the postseason. But how much better would they have been if they’d had Hardy all year long?