Now that the domestic violence case against Greg Hardy has been dismissed, he definitely has an NFL future somewhere.
I don’t believe it should be in Charlotte. I don’t think he should ever play for the Carolina Panthers again.
Hardy is a free man, and he will be on the open market March 10 when the NFL’s next free-agency period begins. He is 26, in what should be the prime of his career. And he had 15 sacks in 2013 – the last time he played a full season in the NFL.
But to me, Hardy is too much of a risk for a big contract, and the emotional baggage he carries is too considerable for the Panthers to lock into any sort of financial agreement with him again.
Somebody is going to pay him a whole lot of money. It shouldn’t be Carolina.
Hardy was supposed to go on trial – again – on misdemeanor domestic violence charges Monday. Instead, the case was dismissed when the prosecution could not secure the cooperation of ( or for that matter, even locate) Nicole Holder, Hardy’s former girlfriend and the woman who originally accused him.
District attorney Andrew Murray said in court that his office believed Holder and Hardy had reached a financial settlement. In a news release, the DA’s office stated even more strongly: “The victim appears to have intentionally made herself unavailable to the State. The DA’s Office has also been made aware that the victim has reached a civil settlement with Mr. Hardy.”
And, the DA’s office said, “Without her testimony, in this particular instance, the State could not proceed.”
This doesn’t mean for sure Hardy is off the hook with the NFL, but I think it’s likely he will not be suspended. Roger Goodell could suspend Hardy for conduct detrimental to the league without a conviction, I suppose. But legally Hardy’s record is now clear – so that sort of suspension would undoubtedly be appealed and I doubt it would stick.
So Hardy can go back to his job and his admittedly entertaining schtick. Why not then have Hardy apologize to Jerry Richardson and his teammates, fall on whatever type of sword a mythological Kraken carries and then simply come back to Carolina at a reasonable price?
Because I don’t think he can be trusted, and ultimately I don’t think the price will be that reasonable.
I know many of you disagree. I have heard from a number of Panthers fans: “Give Hardy another chance. Remember, Steve Smith stayed on the team despite punching teammates. This is football, not a church choir.”
I understand the logic. But even with Hardy a free man, I just don’t think it is in the Panthers’ best interest to sign Hardy again.
Look at how last year turned out. The Panthers paid Hardy $13.1 million, effectively hijacking their salary cap, and he played in one game. Not because of an injury he couldn’t help, but because of an off-field issue.
And it’s not like that was the first time. Remember Hardy’s motorcycle accident?
Also, if this were going to be settled out of court with Holder receiving money in a civil settlement, I am sure every Panthers fan is asking why it wasn’t settled before the 2014 season began rather than after it concluded.
The Panthers’ defense did OK without Hardy, finishing No. 10 in total defense last season. The Panthers have some young defensive ends that, while not at Hardy’s level, don’t represent an incredible dropoff. Carolina would be better served spending the big money Hardy would cost it on some combination of a left tackle, a wide receiver and a big-time defensive back.
Now don’t get me wrong. As a team, with No. 76 on the field, it’s undeniable Carolina has been better. Over the past two regular seasons, Carolina has gone 13-4 with Hardy suiting up and 6-8-1 without him.
But it’s not always just about talent.
Somebody is going to take a big risk on Hardy, because NFL teams are desperate for pass rushers in their prime.
The Panthers, though, already know how that can turn out.
After Monday, Hardy is free to go.
And that is exactly what he should do.