Carolina Panthers and Greg Hardy still negotiating

Kevin C. Cox

Hardy is generally considered the top defensive end entering free agency this year with Michael Johnson in second place.

The Carolina Panthers "remain in discussions" with defensive end Greg Hardy, according to the Charlotte Observer. Hardy is universally considered the top defensive end that's scheduled to enter free agency next month.

The Panthers met recently with Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy’s agent, and the two sides have had ongoing negotiations, according to two league sources. Hardy is looking for a contract commensurate with his place among the league’s best pass rushers after totaling 26 sacks over the past two seasons. Hardy, 25, who is among this year’s top free agents, told reporters in January he wanted a "big number" if he signed a multiyear deal. Most industry experts believe he could draw a deal worth an average of $12 million to $14 million per season, with as much as $25 million in guaranteed money, if he hits the open market.

If the Panthers are able to re-sign Hardy to the range described above, that adds two complications for the Cincinnati Bengals, who would like to retain Johnson (but the scenario developing about the money it could take is very real).

  1. Michael Johnson, most likely, slides into first position as the top defensive end entering free agency, suggesting that his price range will be significant. If Cincinnati signs him long-term, most likely he would be the highest paid player on the team -- and with the team already on the book for Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, how much money is Cincinnati willing to invest on the defensive line?
  2. If Hardy signs something on average of "$12 million to $14 million per season, with as much as $25 million in guaranteed money", Johnson is as good as gone.
Granted. Most likely Johnson won't surpass the projected numbers for Hardy listed above. But it would be a good baseline on a ceiling for Johnson when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 11.
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