The Dallas Cowboys have signed controversial defensive end Greg Hardy to a one-year, $11.3 million deal that could be worth up to roughly $13 million after incentives. For those who are unaware of the situation, Hardy was one of the key figures at the center of the NFL’s battle against domestic violence during the 2014 season.
The former sixth-round pick out of Ole Miss had spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, but given the nature of the charges against him, the Panthers chose to cut ties with the All-Pro-caliber defensive end.
Hardy was found guilty in a bench trial of assaulting a woman and communicating threats by a Mecklenburg County judge last summer. He chose to exercise his rights to a jury trial, but when the alleged victim failed to show up to testify at the second trial, the charges against Hardy were dropped. However, the 26-year-old is hardly in the clear with the league that employs him.
Hardy was suspended by the Carolina Panthers for the majority of the 2014 season, and the 2013 Pro Bowler still faces a potential suspension from the NFL. The league is currently in fact-gathering mode and should let the Cowboys and Hardy know if there will be any further discipline in the coming months. Given his uncertain status with the league, it may come as a surprise that the Cowboys were willing to sign Hardy to such a lucrative contract extension.
In a league where contracts revolve around guaranteed money, a deal like the one Hardy just signed with the Cowboys is a bit of an anomaly. Jerry Jones and his staff have not guaranteed a single dollar in the defensive end’s contract and did an excellent job in protecting themselves against any potential suspension the NFL may hand down to Hardy.
The closest thing to a guarantee in Hardy’s contract is a $1.3116 million workout bonus. As long as he attends a specified percentage of the team’s offseason program, Hardy will receive this money. The remaining portion of his contract is where things get quite interesting. Here is a quick breakdown of Hardy’s contract, courtesy of Todd Archer and ESPNDallas.com:
- Workout bonus: $1.3116 million
- Base salary: $750,000
- Per-game 53-man roster bonus: $9.25 million ($578,125 per game)
- Performance incentives: Up to $1.804 million
As a vested veteran, Hardy’s base salary would become fully guaranteed if he is on the Cowboys’ opening game roster. The structure of the per-game 53-man roster bonus is where the Cowboys won on this deal. Hardy will only be paid for games in which he plays. If he ends up being suspended, the financial burden on the Cowboys will be far less significant. If he plays the entire season, Dallas is getting an All-Pro caliber player for a relatively reasonable price.
The Cowboys were able to pull off this deal with minimal salary cap implications, as well. Since Hardy was only on the Panthers’ active roster for two games in 2014, the league’s salary cap rules dictate that only two games of his per-game 53-man roster bonus are likely to be earned. This fact drops Hardy’s 2015 salary cap number down to $3.2 million. If he plays the entire season, the Cowboys will likely need to restructure the contracts of other players to stay under the cap, but for now, they were able to add Hardy without adjusting the contracts of anybody else.
From a contract and salary cap perspective, the Dallas Cowboys’ decision to sign Hardy looks like an excellent move. From a non-football perspective, the decision to bring Hardy on board raises major questions about the ethical and moral values of Jones and the Dallas executive team.