NFL free agency 2014: Greg Hardy, Jairus Byrd working on long-term deals as franchise tag deadline nears

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The two top defensive pending free agents are still holding out hope they'll be able to grab multi-year contracts from their respective clubs, but they both could be slapped with the franchise tag on Monday.

With the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag quickly approaching, the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers haven't yet given up hope on signing two of the league's best defenders to long-term deals. Reports indicate that both Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Bills safety Jairus Byrd are still trying to work out multi-year deals before their respective teams are forced to make a tag decision by 4 p.m. ET Monday.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Panthers remain "in discussions" with Hardy and recently sat down with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Talks between Byrd and the Bills are apparently going better than they did last offseason, when the the two sides failed to reach a long-term agreement and the Pro Bowler held out after receiving the franchise tag. According to Kevin Patra of Around the League, talks have been "pleasant so far."

Unless all parties can reach a deal over the weekend, however, it seems both players could be destined for the franchise tag. If either player is tagged, he would still have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.

Hardy, who's piled up 26 sacks over the last two seasons and is still only 25, recently told Around the League that he's looking for a "crapload of money." The Charlotte Observer cites league experts who give a slightly more specific amount for Hardy's market value -- somewhere between $12 and $14 million per year. The defensive end tag is expected to be worth about $13 million in 2014. After recent contract restructures, Carolina is sitting an estimated $22 million under the cap.

If the Panthers can't bring Hardy down to an amount they deem reasonable by Monday, they're expected to use the tag.

Byrd's been through this dance before, and it didn't end well. Even with talks reportedly going better this time around, his chances of being tagged remain relatively high. He's looking for a multi-year deal that will make him the highest-paid safety in the league, and the Bills may not be willing to make that happen. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL Media is reporting that the team plans to use the tag if a deal is not reached by the deadline.

That should make for some interesting drama in Buffalo.

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