Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy will hit free agency in March, and the Panthers have a big decision ahead on whether they want to keep him. 

The NFC South divisional champions could choose to use the franchise tag on the solid performer, but the price to designate that to a defensive end is a enormous $12.5 million.

Making such a move would eat up most of the free cap space that the Panthers have available, which means the decision will need to be thought through thoroughly. 

Hardy is coming to the point of his career when he came seek a bigger contract, as the 25-year-old reportedly looks to secure a six-year deal, worth more than the $78 million Charles Johnson received from the Panthers a few years ago. 

The defensive end has been a very productive defensive end in the last two seasons and he will be only 26 years old when next season starts, so if the Panthers allow him to hit free agency they will lose out in a bidding war. 

Hardy was originally selected by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and was signed in the June of that year. 

He had a sensational start to his NFL career as he recorded a blocked punt for a safety, and forced a fumble on his rookie debut.

Hardy didn't start any games in his rookie season, but his breakout came in 2012, when he produced 11 sacks in a stellar campaign, despite playing the whole season with a broken thumb.

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