Former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has a new team. How many games Hardy will be eligible for the Dallas Cowboys this season remains to be seen.
Hardy signed an incentive-laden, one-year contract with Dallas on Wednesday after two days of negotiations and months of waiting following his domestic violence arrest last May.
It’s an $11.3 million deal that could be worth a little more than $13 million, according to multiple reports.
Hardy made $13.1 million for the Panthers last year for playing in one game.
The Cowboys tried to protect themselves financially for the games Hardy could miss while suspended by including $9.25 million in per-game roster bonuses. Hardy also can collect $1.31 million in workout bonuses and a maximum $1.8 million in incentives that are tied to his sack total.
Hardy, 26, remains on the commissioner’s exempt list while the NFL continues its investigation. Many observers expect commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Hardy for six games, the baseline for first-time domestic violence offenders under the new personal conduct policy.
But because Hardy’s arrest pre-dates the new policy, there could be a protracted legal fight coming, much like Adrian Peterson’s.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Dallas spent several weeks vetting Hardy.
“We have spent a great deal of time over the last two days in meeting with Greg directly and gaining a solid understanding of what he is all about as a person and as a football player. A thorough background review of him, involving many elements of our organization, has been ongoing for the last few weeks,” Jones said in a statement released by the team.
“Obviously a great deal of our study was dedicated to the issue of domestic violence, and the recent events that associated Greg with that issue. ... Our organization understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league. We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well.”
The Panthers decided several months ago to part ways with Hardy, who became a free agent last week.
Carolina will play at Dallas next season. Until Hardy’s discipline is announced and the NFL schedule is released, it’s unclear whether the Panthers will face him.
Hardy went to his first Pro Bowl after tying the Panthers’ franchise record with 15 sacks in 2013 during his last full season.
Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards told the Observer last week he understood the team’s decision to part ways with Hardy, saying “it’s bigger than football sometimes.”
Former Carolina tight end Ben Hartsock, while praising Hardy’s playing ability, told a Dallas radio station on Wednesday that Hardy could be “unmanageable” at times in Charlotte.
“The Greg Hardy that was on the field was going to be a nightmare for the opposing team. But then you go in and everybody is in the hot tub or the cold tub after practice just shooting the breeze and the guy carries on a very reasonable, level-headed, inquisitive type of conversation,” Hartsock told ESPN 103.3 FM.
“Then there are other times when he’s just unmanageable. And that’s why I think things have gotten in trouble with his personal life. He’s going have to go a long ways to earn the trust of any organization. ... His reputation has now become an Achilles heel.”
Hardy was last arrested in May, two months after the Panthers had placed the franchise tag on him rather than sign him to a long-term contract extension.
His ex-girlfriend, a cocktail waitress named Nicole Holder, accused Hardy of throwing her around his uptown condo following a night of partying. Holder said Hardy pushed her into a bathtub, tossed her on to a futon covered with semi-automatic weapons, put his hands around her throat and threatened to kill her.
Hardy said Holder followed him around his condo swinging a heeled shoe at him after he asked her to leave.
Hardy agreed to go on the seldom-used exempt list in September until his case was adjudicated. He was paid his entire salary, despite playing in only the season opener at Tampa Bay.
He was deactivated the following week, less than two hours before the Panthers’ home game against Detroit. Hardy then joined Minnesota running back Peterson on the exempt list as Goodell scrambled to decide on a course of action following his mishandling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence situation.
A district judge found Hardy guilty of two misdemeanor charges, saying she thought Hardy made a fabricated 911 call as a cover-up. He appealed for a jury trial, which was scheduled for November and moved to February.
The charges were dismissed when prosecutors said they couldn’t find Holder to testify. District attorney Andrew Murray said Hardy paid Holder an undisclosed amount to settle any potential civil claims.
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