Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers
It’s still a pretty amazing stat.
In his first two seasons in the league, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy totaled seven sacks in 31 games.
In his final two games in the regular season in 2013, he totaled seven sacks.
That latter fact was part of a Pro Bowl campaign this past season for Hardy, who finished third in the NFL with 15 sacks. The Panthers were NFC South champions for the first time since 2008, ranked second in the league in fewest yards allowed and fewest points allowed and led the NFL with 60 sacks.
With a depth chart that includes Hardy, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Charles Johnson and outside linebacker Thomas Davis, it’s hard to believe the Panthers’ hierarchy would actually let their Pro Bowl defensive end get away at any price.
And the price figures to be high in 2014.
T.J. Ward, SS, Cleveland Browns
Will the Cleveland Browns see a “Return of the Mack,” or will they be able to hook T.J. Ward?
Ray Farmer has some work ahead of him as this franchise looks to get back on track following another offseason of change. May Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com got the thoughts of the team’s newest general manager in a recent series of interviews.
Earlier in this piece, we speculated that the Browns may be able to come to terms with Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. That means the team would likely use the franchise tag on Pro Bowl strong safety T.J. Ward, one of the Browns’ top playmakers on the league’s ninth-ranked defense in 2013.
For those who feel this entire situation feels familiar, let’s flashback to 2013 when the Buffalo Bills hoped to retain guard Andy Levitre and free safety Jairus Byrd. The Bills put the tag on Byrd but lost Levitre to the Tennessee Titans.
Will history repeat, this time in Cleveland, in the next month or so?
Donald Butler, LB, San Diego Chargers
Forget about the butler doing it.
Will the San Diego Chargers do it? As in slap the franchise designation on inside linebacker Donald Butler?
After missing his first season in the league in 2010 due to injury, the emerging defenders has become a force for the Bolts ever since and played his best football late in this past season.
In the playoff split with the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, Butler made his presence felt in each game. A crucial forced fumble versus the Bengals turned out to be a huge play in the win at Cincinnati. A week later, Butler’s impressive interception off a deflected Peyton Manning pass kept his team in the game in the first half. The young linebacker combined for 17 tackles in the postseason, 12 of those stops in the victory over the Bengals.
Now let’s see if the Chargers stop Butler from going anywhere anytime soon.