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Pi Network

Draft King Analysis
March 18, 2015
Lou Pickney,

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Former Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has found a new NFL home, signing a one-year contract today with the Dallas Cowboys. But how many games he will be able to play for the Cowboys this fall remains to be seen.

Hardy, who turns 27 in July, played in just one game last season for Carolina, the season-opener against Tampa Bay. He faced pending legal action involving claims of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend, and in July of last year a judge found Hardy guilty of multiple criminal charges in connection with the assault.

This did not automatically earn him a suspension, and he still had a jury trial awaiting him as per the rules in place in North Carolina. But everything changed in early September when the Ray Rice casino security video showing him knocking his then-fiancee, now wife, unconscious in an elevator.

The backlash against the NFL was severe, with social media exploding and reporters pressing the league on what it did or didn't know in what turned into a months-long ordeal. With damage control in full effect, Hardy was put on ice, ending up on the "Exempt Commissioner's Permission List" which kept him on the Panthers but didn't allow him to take part in team activities.

The previous February, Carolina had used its franchise tag on Hardy, who had become an elite defensive end in his first four years in the league. Hardy signed the one-year tender, which gave him more than $13 million guaranteed.

Because he played in one game last fall, Carolina found itself having to pay him the entire amount without recourse to recoup the money. That didn't sit well with the Panthers brass, who gladly let him leave after the season.

What happened next is a reminder that, if you have money, the justice system can be manipulated. Hardy reached a civil settlement with the woman, which was huge. That avoided what would likely have been a long, embarrassing process. But with the payoff, that was avoided. No depositions, no courtrooms, no lawyers -- at least on the civil side.

As for the criminal charges, they were dropped last month after the victim refused to work with prosecutors. That's right: with one payoff, Hardy avoided the criminal/civil double whammy.

But one major hurdle remains for Hardy: it remains unknown how the NFL will discipline him for what happened. Even without a jury trial conviction, Commissioner Goodell has the latitude to suspend him. It's expected that Hardy will be suspended somewhere between four and six games, though that is just speculation. His contract with Dallas is listed as $13.1 million, but the way it's structured with per-game bonuses limits the Cowboys' financial exposure should he end up facing a lengthy suspension.

Hardy will fill a huge need for Dallas, who I projected would draft Kentucky DE/OLB Bud Dupree in the latest mock I posted today. With only a one-year deal and no clear idea of how many games he'll be able to play, or how he will perform, the Cowboys could very well stick with that approach. Or, as many have speculated, Dallas might instead go with a running back at #27. I've resisted that projection to this point, but this move might finally push me into that camp.

That prompts another question: would Dallas take Georgia RB Todd Gurley or Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon there if both were available? We shall see.


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