Panthers clear up cap space, have room to franchise tag Greg Hardy

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers cleared over $7 million in space by re-structuring the deals of Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil and Jonathan Stewart.

The Carolina Panthers made moves to clear cap space by restructuring the contracts of Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil and Jonathan Stewart that opened up $7.25 million in additional space, according to the Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. With the new room under the salary cap, the Panthers may be in position to keep their Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy.

Davis was the first to receive a restructured contract from the Panthers, as the linebacker's base salary for the 2014 season was cut from $2.75 million to just under $1 million, lowering his cap number from $6.82 million to $3.57 million. The $3.25 million in savings was nearly matched by the restructuring of Kalil's deal that cleared $3.1 million.

Per the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers are approximately $29 million under the salary cap for the 2014 season which would be more than enough room to keep Hardy if they wish. However, the NFLPA currently has the team listed as having $11.6 million in space and Over The Cap projected the team would have $8.3 million in space prior to the three moves.

Regardless, the Panthers could feasibly keep Hardy, although James Dator of SB Nation's Panthers blog, Cat Scratch Reader, thinks that the team's starting left tackle could also be a recipient of some of the extra room the team created:

These savings could potentially pay for the majority of a short-term deal for left tackle Jordan Gross or go in the increasingly large kitty that would need to be allocated in any move that involves trying to retain Greg Hardy, either by franchise tagging the defensive end or signing him to a large long-term deal.

Hardy won't be a cheap player to keep around, as the 25-year-old pass rusher has racked up 26 sacks in the past two seasons and has continuously improved since he was drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft. He'll demand plenty on the open market if he was allowed to reach it, which could make the negotiation of a long-term deal difficult.

That means the Panthers would likely have to resort to the franchise tag to keep Hardy, which is projected to cost the team about $13 million for the 2014 season. That's a high price to pay for a team that already has more than $16 million for the 2014 season tied up with Charles Johnson, the defensive end opposite Hardy. Still, the price of losing a Pro Bowl pass rusher might be even more.

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