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Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy is now ‘all about the numbers’

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/02/13/10/sBISY.Em.138.jpeg|400
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy recorded four sacks against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, on Dec. 29, 2013.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/02/13/10/1eU0r4.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Uncredited - The Carolina Panthers
    Carolina Panthers team photo of Greg Hardy.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/02/13/10/1nHodp.Em.138.jpeg|412
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during fourth quarter action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. on Sunday, December 29, 2013. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 21-20.

The Panthers might have missed the window for their biggest savings on defensive end Greg Hardy’s hometown discount.

Two weeks after saying he would take less money to re-sign with the Panthers, Hardy said Wednesday he’s looking for “a big number” in his next contract.

“It’s all about the numbers with me. I don’t really have an end game to where I want to hustle or play around or play the market,” Hardy said. “I want a big number that I worked for, nothing imaginary. And if you don’t believe me, tell me what you want me to do and I’ll go do it for you. And then give me my number and we’ll be good.”

Since Hardy’s comments two weeks ago, he has recorded seven sacks in two games – including a team-record four Sunday at Atlanta – has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season and earned his first Pro Bowl berth.

No wonder coach Ron Rivera half-jokingly reminded reporters Wednesday of Hardy’s offer to give the Panthers a discount.

“The nice thing we have going is he offered to take the hometown discount, so we’ll hold him to it,” Rivera said. “He’s done a great job, and we’ll just have to wait and see once we get to that point in the year.”

Hardy said the discount still stands.

“It’s still discounted. If you take $10 million off $110 million, it’s still $100 million,” he said. “That’s not the case, but you know what I’m saying? It’s a number, it’s not ridiculous.

“But I want to be compensated and I want it to be what I deserve. And I will take a franchise tag if that’s what it takes to get it done.”

Putting the franchise tag on Hardy would seem to make sense for general manager Dave Gettleman, who has restructured the contracts of a number of veterans to get the Panthers about $17 million below the salary cap.

The first priority this offseason will be getting a long-term deal done with quarterback Cam Newton, who has guided Carolina (12-4) into the playoffs in his third season. The Panthers could exercise their club option on Newton for the 2015 season but are expected to try to lock him up.

Hardy, a 2010 sixth-round pick from Mississippi, has been a bargain: He’s making $1.35 million in the final year of his four-year, rookie deal.

Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy’s agent, has been in contract talks with the Panthers since last spring; but with no deal imminent, Rosenhaus likely is willing to let Hardy test free agency – assuming the Panthers don’t use the franchise tag on him.

Hardy said he’s not opposed to getting the franchise tag, a guaranteed one-year deal that many players dislike because of its restrictive nature.

Under the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement, tag numbers are set by a complex formula based on salaries over a five-year period and their percentage of the overall cap in those years.

The tag for defensive ends this season was worth $11.175 million.

Hardy, 25, indicated a franchise tag could be beneficial for him and the team.

“I would love a franchise, man. Add another year on my career,” Hardy said. “Get to play football a little bit longer without a contract, another year to be in Carolina to give them a chance to get their fiscal responsibilities in order so we can be here forever like Steve (Smith) and a lot of other guys, like Thomas” Davis.

With his big game against the Falcons, Hardy finished the season with 15 sacks, ranking third in the league and tying outside linebacker Kevin Greene’s team record from 1998.

“I haven’t really been thinking about it a lot,” Hardy said of the record. “It’s a cool thing, it’s a cool deal. But it’s a lot more cool to be in the playoffs and not just winning two games.”

Hardy, who had 11 sacks last season, said he’s already thinking about the increased expectations he’ll face in 2014, wherever he is playing.

“People don’t ever want less,” he said. “They always want more.”

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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