2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Ends

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Dec 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

3. Greg Hardy

Pros: Greg Hardy is the best football player on this list. He’s an absolute monster, at 6’4″ and roughly 280 pounds with great speed, athleticism and power combined with pure instincts. He was one of the league’s elite pass rushers in 2012 and 2013, amassing 26 total sacks, and he’s nearly impossible to pass block without using a tight end or back to chip him or even double team him. He’s also a great run defender who reads and reacts quickly and correctly and can blow up a play with his power and speed. He is the Ndamukong Suh of defensive ends.

Cons: He doesn’t have the elite edge speed of a tweener type end, and isn’t going to run down a fast running back or catch up to most scrambling quarterbacks. The major con with Hardy is his off the field issues. Hardy just wrapped up proceedings from a domestic assault case that saw him convicted, then appeal only to have the case thrown out on appeal because the victim stopped cooperating for some reason. The allegations against him, all public knowledge, are grotesque, and he missed virtually all of last season because of them and his status as a free agent as well as on any sort of suspension are still up in the air.

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  • Scheme Fit: Hardy is a 4-3 end, through and through, who may not be the kind of fast edge guy you want as a LEO but can be a traditional 5-7 tech guy in an over or base set, and can even be a 3-4 defensive end or a 3-tech defensive tackle in some subpackages. He won’t be much use standing up or as a wide 9 alignment, but otherwise is highly scheme versatile.

    Market Value: This is unclear. He may not get credit toward unrestricted free agency for the 2014 season and will require an offer sheet and compensation to be signed. Or, more likely, he’ll be allowed to hit unrestricted free agency but will need to serve an NFL mandated suspension for domestic violence. Furthermore, a player with the stain of domestic violence hanging over him in the 2015 NFL is going to turn off a lot of GM’s and fan bases altogether. Still, he’s an elite talent and probably will find a home, but maybe on a contract with little guaranteed and not a lot of years. I can’t quite put a real value on him yet.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: No. While he’d fit a Del Rio/Norton system and dramatically improve the team, Reggie McKenzie is not going to sign a guy who may be suspended for a big chunk of the season. McKenzie is not a forgiving soul when it comes to off-field issues, and Hardy has one of the most visible off-field problems in the league. Don’t expect him in Silver and Black as long as McKenzie is around.

    Next: 2015 Free Agent DE Rankings: #4 Trent Cole