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Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys strike one-year contract

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The Buccaneers bowed out of the chase for Greg Hardy on Wednesday, leaving Dallas as the free-agent pass rusher's lone option.

Hardy signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys shortly thereafter, the team announced. It's a highly incentive-laden deal that could be worth up to $13.1 million with no guaranteed money, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source involved. Rapoport added that the Cowboys can't use either the franchise or transition tag on Hardy.

The contract is structured to protect the Cowboys if Hardy faces a suspension, as more than $11 million of the $13.1 million maximum comes in the form of per-game roster and workout bonuses, a source involved told NFL Media's Albert Breer.

Hardy was ranked No. 6 on Around The NFL's list of the Top 101 Free Agents. Still in his prime at 26 years old, he is just one season removed from tying a Panthers franchise record, finishing third in the NFL with 15 sacks.

His market was slow to develop due to last year's domestic violence conviction, which left him sidelined for all but one game. The charges were dismissed last month after North Carolina prosecutors said the accuser in the case couldn't be found. Hardy remains on the Commissioner's Exempt List, and the NFL will decide if it will levy any punishment.

In addition to the possibility of a looming suspension to open the 2015 season, teams were concerned about a concomitant public relations hit.

"At the end of the day, we didn't feel good about (signing Hardy)," general manager Jason Licht explained of the Bucs' decision to withdraw on Wednesday.

However, Jerry Jones says the Cowboys have done their homework.

"Obviously a great deal of our study was dedicated to the issue of domestic violence, and the recent events that associated Greg with that issue," he said. "We know that Greg’s status remains under review by the National Football League."

Although Hardy brings excess baggage, he's also a difference-making talent at a position of need in Dallas.

From a pure football perspective, Hardy ranked behind only Ndamukong Suh and Darrelle Revis among all players to reach the open market.

A team with expectations of playoff contention -- such as Dallas -- is better suited to withstand a potential early-season absence in the event of an NFL suspension.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is no stranger to taking fliers on talented players viewed by other teams as character risks. A more generous interpretation is that Jones believes in second chances.

Hardy will get his second chance in Dallas, teaming with promising second-year defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to provide the Cowboys with their most potent edge-rushing tandem since 2012, when DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer each reached double figures in sacks.

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