The big news today has surrounded Carolina Panthers pass rusher, Greg Hardy, who saw his case dismissed upon repeal. That news immediately began shaping the opinion on Hardy's value as an upcoming free agent, and of course there are a lot of fans who are now wondering if their team could be looking to bring him in.
Hardy has shown some immense talents on the football field. He had 33 sacks over his first four seasons in Carolina including 26 in his last two full seasons. His best season was his contract year when he had 15.0 sacks. That made the 25-year-old a hot commodity as a potential free agent and prompted the Panthers to place the franchise tag on him.
While his case has been dismissed, he is far from out of the woods on this. Hardy was already found guilty of the assault charges against him last summer. But when the case went to appeal, he opted to settle it with the plaintiff out of court. That isn't exactly the picture of innocence.
Here's a taste of the incidents that transpired between Hardy and his girlfriend Nicole Holder that night per Sports Illustrated:
A crowded after-party didn't restrain Hardy. First he flung Holder onto a bed, then he threw her into a bathtub. Then he tossed her onto a futon covered with a cache of firearms. An inventory of the guns later filed with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office revealed 10 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. (In North Carolina, permits are not required for firearms other than handguns.) According to Holder, Hardy asserted that the rifles were loaded.
Next, Hardy ripped from Holder's body a necklace that he had gifted her. He threw the jewelry into a toilet, and when Holder attempted to fish it out, Hardy slammed the lid on her arm. He then dragged her by the hair from room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat. "He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me," Holder later testified. "I was so scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.'"
While there are a great many fans who are -- as always -- shouting the "Innocent until proven guilty" chestnut, that only protects Hardy in the eyes of the law of the land. The law of the NFL requires no such ruling. In that case, Roger Goodell is Judge Judy and executioner.
Last year in the midst of the Ray Rice situation, Goodell put together what was to be a more concrete policy (sorta) for domestic abusers and those who commit assault. That is to say an ACTUAL policy as there wasn't one before. The plan is a six-game suspension for a first time offender "with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant."
Among the factors Goodell lists as grounds for a longer suspension are "violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking..." -- ALL of which were detailed by Holder in the original court case of which Hardy was convicted.
A second offense is to result in "banishment form the NFL."
To my knowledge this is a first offense for Hardy, which would suggest he is in for the mandatory minimum six-game suspension with a likelihood of more.
Hardy's franchise tag figure was a hefty $13.1 million. And the Panthers got one game out of it before sitting him out the rest of the season due to public pressure from the case against him.
His sitting out 15 games last season will not satisfy Goodell as 'time served' because Hardy still got paid every penny of his salary while he wasn't playing. Not exactly the kind of suspension one receives under the conduct policy.
So, the question becomes if the Raiders, or any team for that matter, will want to take on an elite pass rushing threat with the kind of baggage and character concerns of Hardy, facing at least a six-game suspension, and pay him what will still probably amount to a sizable salary for eventual potential reward.
I have my doubts Reggie McKenzie is one of those who would gladly jump in on that sweepstakes.