There weren’t many bright spots for the Carolina Panthers in 2012, but one of them was the emergence of defensive end Greg Hardy. After two frustrating seasons trying to adapt to the pro game the 24-year old finally broke through to have a highly productive year. While it may be a sign of things to come some must wonder if it will come in time for Carolina as Hardy expects to enter NFL free agency in 2014.
Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short picks send interesting message
On paper at least it looks like the Panthers may suddenly have something on the defensive line in 2013. Not only do Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson come in having collected 23.5 sacks a year ago, they are joined by two promising young defensive tackles in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. This group is brimming with pass rush potential and could serve as the bedrock to a resurgence for the Carolina defense. Hardy even went so far as to say the goal for him this coming season is to break the 50-sack mark. Ambitious for sure and a little out of reach but it shows how much confidence he has going into a contract year surrounded by such talent. Whether the Panthers can keep that talent together must be on the mind of GM Dave Gettleman. Looking ahead to 2014, Carolina will have $123.6 million locked up in current players. That is barely below the current cap. Even if they got a slight bump next year it isn’t likely going to be enough to keep Hardy provided he puts out another double digit season in sacks.
Vikings mulling futures of Jared Allen and Kevin Williams
Carolina would have to dump at least a couple of their big contracts to save the needed money, and that is something they want to try and avoid. The issue facing them is the knowledge that teams will line up rather quickly to get Hardy if he hits the open market. For example, the Minnesota Vikings continue to undergo a rebuilding process. Two longtime veterans they must worry about are defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Allen is a free agent next year too and may not be keen on staying if Minnesota continues to falter in or out of the playoffs. Williams meanwhile turns 33 in August. That is why they drafted Sharrif Floyd in the first round of the draft back in April. Should Allen leave, Greg Hardy would make the perfect replacement, giving the Vikings a fresh, young defensive front to continue building around moving forward.
Considering they could have over $30 million in salary cap space next year, it is a problem Carolina can’t ignore.