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Panthers DE Hardy signs tender offer

<p>Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy formally signed his franchise tender offer on Tuesday, ensuring the standout pass rusher will remain with the team for the upcoming 2014 season.</p>

Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy formally signed his franchise tender offer on Tuesday, ensuring the standout pass rusher will remain with the team for the upcoming 2014 season.

The Panthers designated Hardy, whose 15 sacks in 2013 tied a team record and ranked third in the NFL, as their franchise player on Friday. The defending NFC South champions have until July 15 to negotiate with the four-year pro on a long-term contract, or else Hardy will play out the upcoming season on the franchise salary.

According to NFL.com, the franchise tag for defensive ends in 2014 is projected to be around $13 million.

If Hardy had refused to sign the tender, he would have been eligible to entertain offers from other teams, which the Panthers had the right to match or receive two first-round picks as compensation.

After netting just seven sacks over his first two seasons, Hardy racked up 11 along with 61 tackles during a breakthrough 2012 campaign. The 25-year-old was even more productive this past year in helping Carolina record a league-best 60 sacks en route to a surprise 12-4 season.

A sixth-round steal by the Panthers in the 2010 draft, Hardy twice earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in 2013. He and fellow end Charles Johnson are the only set of teammates to produce 10 or more sacks in each of the last two seasons, having combined for 49 1/2 over that span.

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