Hardy Represents Uncharted Territory for Dallas, Both On & Off the Field
The most contentious free agent signing this season hails from a franchise known for grabbing headlines.
Just last week, the Dallas Cowboys inked a deal with defensive end Greg Hardy, who saw limited playtime the previous season due to suspension.
The one-year contract can potentially be valued at $13.1 million, including various incentives.
As reported by sportac.com, Hardy’s contract breaks down as follows: a base salary of $745,000, per-game bonuses totaling $9,255,000 (with two likely to be earned), and a workout bonus of $1,311,600.
In terms of the salary cap, Hardy carries a hit of $2,635,037. Furthermore, he stands to earn upwards of $1.8 million in bonuses based on his sack performance this year.
The controversy surrounding this deal undoubtedly stems from Hardy’s prior legal troubles.
Last July, the former Carolina Panther was found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence, accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
Hardy contested the conviction, and while a trial was set for last month, charges were ultimately dropped after his accuser reportedly couldn’t be located by prosecutors.
I believe in the value of giving second chances, and this sentiment is shared by others like Mark Cuban, who expressed to the Dallas Morning News,
“I think they handled it wrong publicly … (but) you can’t just throw people away. What are you going to say about Greg Hardy? You can’t ever get a job?”
Charlotte Johnson Anderson, the daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the team’s executive vice president/brand manager, also conveyed to the Dallas Morning News,
“A lot of people say this is awful, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why this is such an incredible opportunity. That’s why I’m not afraid of this move.”
“I’m a mom. I’ve got a daughter, I’ve got two sons. This is a serious issue for me, personally. I want my kids to know that domestic violence is not acceptable. But I also want them to know that if they make a mistake, no matter what the issue is, I’m not just going to throw them out. I’ve got to help them come back and make a better choice.”
That being said, there are two sides to this risk:
- There’s no acknowledgment of any wrongdoing…did Hardy truly learn from his past?
- The defensive advantages Hardy enjoyed in Carolina may not translate to the same extent in Dallas.
For a second chance to hold true meaning, the individual must take steps to mend what’s been broken. Without that, can we truly speak of redemption?
We have yet to receive a public apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing from Hardy’s camp directed towards the victim of domestic violence or his former team, the Panthers, for his extended absence and the disruption he caused to his teammates, coaches, and organization, save for a brief statement last July where Hardy mentioned, “I hate that I have distracted my team.”
Comparatively, considering the statements we’ve heard from Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, this remark appears somewhat hollow, if not entirely incomplete.
During the period of the pending appeal, it may have been advised for Hardy to refrain from commenting, assuming he was being guided by legal counsel.
However, now that the case has concluded, some form of acknowledgment of lessons learned or remorse— even without explicit admissions of guilt, if he maintains his innocence— would be crucial.
This absence of such sentiments should give Dallas fans and officials cause for concern, as it raises questions about whether any genuine growth has occurred.
While Hardy could have expressed remorse privately, given the public nature of this matter, a public apology is needed.
It becomes exceptionally crucial when the public represents the very foundation of the profession that has provided Hardy with the opportunity to earn millions.
When an individual seeks a second chance but fails to express genuine remorse or at least make an earnest attempt to do so, it raises doubts about their true intentions.
Can we truly believe that they are sincerely sorry? A second chance should be earned through demonstrated growth, not simply expected as a right.
As of now, Hardy has not earned that second chance from the most important party – the public.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings expressed,
“But at some point, being a sports fan takes a back seat to being a father and husband and wanting to do what’s right for women. This doesn’t sit well with me.”
Rawlings later added, “As a Cowboys fan, this was a blow.”
From a business standpoint, Hardy’s signing remains a challenging decision to rationalize.
When a player with a troubled history and the potential for further suspension is brought in, a franchise must carefully weigh the risks against the potential rewards. Do the potential benefits outweigh the potential downsides?
The Cowboys evidently believe so, and to their credit, from a financial perspective, the contract’s risk is heavily skewed in their favor. However, this is just one aspect of the equation.
From a football standpoint, elite pass rushers are a rare commodity and can elevate a good defense to greatness.
Therefore, acquiring a top-notch pass rusher can often be deemed worth the higher associated risk.
However, upon closer examination of Hardy’s performance on tape, his standout success in 2013, which propelled him into the top tier, can be attributed to working alongside two players who not only command the majority of the offensive line’s attention but also exert pressure on the pocket, preventing the quarterback from stepping up and making a throw.
These two players in question are Charles Johnson and Star Lotulelei.
Due to their presence, Hardy frequently found himself in advantageous one-on-one matchups, which is the aspiration of every pass rusher. Allow me to illustrate this point…
Greg Hardy is left one-on-one with a tight end. Typically, when a tight end is tasked with blocking a defensive end, it’s a favorable situation for the defensive end.
This scenario occurred because Lotulelei was positioned beside him, drawing the double team (as shown below).
In the following clip, the offensive line shifts their focus away from Hardy, preoccupied with Lotulelei and the other defensive lineman.
This creates ample room for Hardy, allowing him not only a one-on-one matchup but also providing him with two viable options to outmaneuver the tackle—either to the inside or outside. It’s a pass rusher’s ideal scenario (as shown below).
In 2013, Hardy’s impressive productivity was partially attributed to the favorable circumstances provided by Carolina’s defensive scheme.
While he may maintain his elite performance on the field, there’s a possibility of an anticipated decline, potentially making the cost and off-field concerns appear less justified.
Regrettably, the Dallas Cowboys lack players of Lotulelei and Johnson’s caliber to consistently recreate these advantageous scenarios—much like most teams in the league.
If Hardy finds himself facing double teams regularly and his stats don’t reflect the same level of shine, will the risk taken on him still prove worthwhile?
This uncertainty in football, coupled with Hardy’s failure to publicly exhibit any remorse for the actions that led to his need for a second chance, renders this signing the riskiest of the offseason.
Football places a significant emphasis on team accountability. With Greg Hardy and the Cowboys, there remain numerous unanswered questions…