Could This Be Greg Hardy's Replacement?

With the highly probable scenario that Greg Hardy will not be playing in Carolina next season due to the exorbitant amount he is going to command either in a new contract that is going to be at or around 10 million per season or the franchise tag (which is estimated to be between $12,455,000 and $12,623,000 for defensive ends), Carolina does not have the cap space for either one of these options. With that in mind Dave Gettleman's best financial move for this organization would be to let Hardy just walk in free agency and wait for a 2015 compensatory draft pick. Then draft a DE with one of our seven draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft to come in and compete for Hardy's old spot. A mid round draftee will cost between $634,950 for a third round selection and even lower for a fourth rounder at $598,977 under this years salary cap. That is a huge difference for a team trying to regain control from a previous regimes misallocation of funds going into certain contracts. If Gettleman chooses to go this route (which would be the wisest move IMO), then I have just the DE prospect that could fit nicely with the defensive system the Panthers run today.

2014 estimated Carolina Panthers cap space

Will Clarke is a senior defensive end that heralds from the WVU Mountaineers. He stands in at 6' 6" and weighs 271 lbs. with long arms measuring at 33 and 3/8 inches. Clarke would be the prototypical edge rusher in the 4/3 system that Ron Rivera and coach Sean McDermott run in Carolina. Clarke has the size and strength to be moved to under tackle in the same packages Hardy played in certain defensive fronts for the Panthers defense. Now Will Clarke isn't in the same breath as Hardy is in now playing at a gang buster level, but with time I believe Clarke can come in and develop into that same role Hardy fills for Carolina now.

Will Clarke West Virginia Bio

Here are some notes from Will Clarke's Senior Bowl week of practice: Senior Bowl Notes

T/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame - Showed good change of direction to handle inside pass rush moves and a strong move that jarred Virginia Tech DE James Gayle. Martin did overset on one rep and knocked off balance by West Virginia DE Will Clarke.

Remember Zack Martin is now considered one of the best LT prospects now in this years draft class.

Here is an excerpt from: The Pewter Report

The next drill ran in practice was pass rushing one-on-ones with linebackers and defensive ends going up against running backs and tight ends. West Virginia running back Charles Sims didn’t have a chance against his Mountaineer teammate defensive end Will Clarke, who used a spin move to get past Sims.

Clarke has been listed as going anywhere between the 3rd round to the 5th round this upcoming May. I think taking Clarke right there in between the two with our 4th round pick would represent good value and bring in a player that could push Frank Alexander or Mario Addison for the spot left open from Hardy's departure. The Panther's could decide to bring in a veteran on a one year deal just until someone like Clarke get's in the swing of things and then surpasses said veteran on the depth chart.

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