If defensive end Greg Hardy were a straight-laced, model citizen off of the football field, he would likely be one of the highest-paid defensive players in the National Football League. Instead, thanks in large part to a nasty domestic violence incident, he is an unemployed 28-year-old.
When it comes down to it, Hardy has nobody to blame but himself for the fact that he is currently sitting at home while the rest of the league takes part in training camp and preseason game action. After convincing the Dallas Cowboys to take a chance on him following the aforementioned domestic violence episode, Hardy responded by getting into verbal altercations and shoving matches with coaches and teammates on the sidelines during games. Things were so bad in Dallas that the Cowboys decided to cut ties with the 2013 Pro Bowler after just one season knowing full well that it would leave them in a major bind at the defensive end position.
While the fact that the Cowboys, who have a lengthy history of taking on troubled players, want nothing to do with Hardy is extremely telling, we also know that after one or two key injuries teams will start to get desperate enough to take a risk on a player with excess baggage. And knowing this, Hardy’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, firmly believes that his client will be signed “in the near future by either a team that suffers an injury on the defensive line or a club that realizes it simply needs more talent on the defensive front.”
With that in mind, here is a look at five potential landing spots for Hardy as the 2016 NFL season approaches.
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have already been hit hard by injuries on the defensive side of the ball (linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive end Shaq Lawson are both expected to miss most of their rookie seasons), and in a season where head coach Rex Ryan and General Manager Doug Whaley are fully aware that their jobs are on the line (they have to make the playoffs to stay employed), they may be desperate enough to take a chance on a talented, but troubled, player such as Hardy.
The Bills will be operating out of a hybrid defense that uses both three and four-man fronts in 2016, and Hardy has the skillset to realistically contribute in either scheme. Furthermore, if there was ever a coach that Hardy could get along with, it’s Ryan, who is the NFL’s ultimate ‘player’s coach’. All said, if the injuries continue to pile up in Buffalo, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills take a risk and sign Hardy to a team-friendly, incentive-laden contract.
2. New England Patriots
From a culture and football perspective this may be the best place for Hardy to end up. New England head coach Bill Belichick’s no-nonsense approach is exactly what Hardy needs, and the 2013 second-team All-Pro would actually be a great fit in the Patriots’ defensive scheme. If this were to happen, Hardy would have to be willing to accept an incentive-heavy contract that pays close to the veteran league minimum, and he would have to go into the situation knowing that one slip-up would cost him his job.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Like the Patriots, the Bengals would be a good fit in terms of team culture (they have a history of taking on troubled players) and defensive scheme (they run a 4-3, which is ideal for Hardy). And seeing as how they also happen to be extremely desperate to win their first postseason game under Marvin Lewis, they may be motivated enough to take on Hardy and all of his baggage. Cincinnati also has the salary cap space available to add hardy without having to make any additional roster moves.
4. New Orleans Saints
Simply put, the Saints are desperate to improve on the defensive side of the ball. If they were to team Hardy up with Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, New Orleans would instantly have one of the top edge-rush duos in the National Football League. And on top of that, new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is implementing a 4-3 defensive scheme, which would play right into Hardy’s strengths.
It is worth pointing out, however, that the Saints not only have a tight salary cap situation, but they were extremely quick to cut ties with Junior Gallette after a video surfaced that was allegedly of him attacking a woman during a beach vacation.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
As of now, the Jaguars are the only team that has brought Hardy in for a visit and workout since the Cowboys decided to part ways with the former Ole Miss standout. Jacksonville has maintained that for the time being, they have no plans to sign Hardy, and were simply using the visit to gather more information on the troubled star. Still, it wouldn’t surprise us to see them add Hardy if any of their current defensive ends suffer an injury that will keep them off the field for an extended period of time.