The Carolina Panthers opened up some salary cap room by restructuring a few contracts over the last week. They are going to use that room to retain their best pass rusher.
NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Friday that the Panthers have informed Greg Hardy they will place the franchise tag on him, per a source who has spoken to the team. The Panthers announced the move later in the day.
The news does not come as a surprise. We called the defensive end a "no brainer" for the tag a few weeks back. There was no reason to believe Carolina would let Hardy walk away, even if they are "cap strapped," according to general manager Dave Gettleman.
The franchise tag for defensive ends is $13.116 million. The Panthers and Hardy would love to work out a long-term deal that could reduce that salary cap hit, but the Panthers look comfortable keeping Hardy under a one-year deal if necessary.
Should Hardy remain on the tag all season, the Panthers might have to choose between pass rushers in 2015. Perhaps they could only get a long-term deal done with Hardy if they let go of Charles Johnson, who signed his own monster contract back in 2011.
Hardy has 26 sacks in the last two seasons and has evolved into one of the more consistent edge rushers in the league. With Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short pushing the pocket on the inside, playing defensive end in Carolina is a recipe for big sack totals.