I find it odd that people are stating that the Panthers may tag Greg Hardy as a franchise player but not re-sign him. The reason is that due to the ability to give a large signing bonus that you can spread over a 6-7 year deal, re-signing Greg Hardy would cost LESS under the 2014 salary cap. Take, for example, Calvin Johnson, who is in the first year of a 7 year, $113 million contract. His cap figure for this season? Less than $8.8 million. As the franchise tag for a DE was $11.175 million in 2013, were Greg Hardy to sign a similar deal, it would actually save the Panthers about $2 million in the first year. And Hardy will not get a similar deal. He is more likely to get a 7 year, $90 million deal, so his 2014 cap figure could be as low as $8 million. That would give the Panthers $4.5 million to take care of their draft picks and bring back guys like Gross, Mikell, Ginn etc.
What about the future? Simple: it isn't that big a deal. The salary cap will go up dramatically starting in 2015, when the NFL CBA finally begins to reflect the new TV money. Another thing, if you look at the Panthers' salaries going forward, there are a lot of guys who can have their salaries reduced or be released altogether. Looking at the Panthers as a business, you have to realize that Thomas Davis, Steve Smith and Charles Godfrey alone will have cap hits of $27.5 million in 2015. (Let us point out that Davis is 30, Smith is 34 and Godfrey is 28 and nowhere near a Pro Bowler.)
Yes, the Panthers have needs on offense. But again, letting Hardy go would only create enough 2014 cap room to sign 2 or 3 players, and one of them would have to be a replacement starting DE. So despite all the gloom and doom, Hardy isn't going anywhere. The Panthers have more than enough room than is necessary to keep him in 2014 (just give him the same structure as Calvin Johnson's deal, just with $15-20 million less money) and Gettleman will have plenty of opportunities to create room to accommodate Hardy (as well as Cam, Kuechly and Star) going forward.