“Round Robinson”: Can’t Hardy Wait
If you’re looking for free agent impact at the defensive end position, prepare to be sorely disappointed. As paradigm shifting as some of the moves on the interior of the defensive line will be, nothing that happened on the perimeter will shake things up as much. This isn’t to say a big name didn’t make a ballyhooed jump, as one player dominated the free agency headlines despite (or because of) his prolonged upcoming absence.
You can’t argue that Hardy is the most talented defensive end to switch teams this offseason. He’s a top-5 talent at the position. But talent has never been the question, and it won’t be this year. Hardy will be very good when he’s on the field. Question is, how often will that be?
Hardy is staring at a 10-game suspension based on his past indiscretions, most notably the domestic violence rap. I’ll admit to being as shocked as anyone that Hardy got 10 games considering the policy Roger Goodell enacted that states a first offense for domestic violence comes with a six-game suspension.
It can be argued that, based on when Hardy was arrested for this incident, he isn’t even subject to the new domestic violence policy. When Ray Rice took his battle for reinstatement to the judicial branch, he was reinstated, albeit without a team willing to employ him.
Call me a homer and a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t think it’s any accident we haven’t gotten a resolution on Hardy’s appeal. The NFL is going to sit on this as long as they can before having to make a decision. When the decision doesn’t fall Hardy’s way (and it won’t), he’ll go the Rice route and take it to court. Goodell wants Hardy to sit as long as possible, but he knows he doesn’t have the legal backing to make this stand up.
So what does this mean for the fantasy owner vying for the services of one of the best rushers in the game? There’s a potential for value, value and more value here. My guess is that we won’t have a full resolution to this situation by the time most drafts go off. You’ll have to have some nerve to take a guy who might not see the field until Week 12, but there will be a substantial discount as a result. If I’m sitting on a late round pick and the top DEs are off the board, I say take the plunge. If you find out after the fact that he’ll be gone ’til November, cut him loose and move on. Opportunity cost is what it’s all about, and there’s plenty to be found here.
While we’re on the subject of Dallas pass rushers, there’s another name that stands to benefit from the presence of Greg Hardy. Although I detailed Randy Gregory and his upside a few weeks ago, he’s not who I’m referring to here. The Cowboys are just a year removed from moving up in the draft to select DeMarcus Lawrence at the top of the second round. He lost most of his rookie year to injury, but we got a taste of his potential in the Wild Card round against the Lions when Lawrence went from goat to hero in just one series. There’s a mountain of potential here, and while teams will be worried about dealing Hardy and Gregory, Lawrence will produce on a consistent level all year long.
I’m partial to Michael Johnson as he is a fellow Yellow Jacket. So I’m happy to see him going back to a place he’s had success before. Not Atlanta, but Cincinnati. Tampa Bay signed him away last year to a big money deal, but after a disappointing season in which he had just 4.0 sacks, the Bucs cut bait and Cincinnati swooped in to bring Johnson back into the fold.
I’m going to fall back on my psychology background on this one. I think there’s something to an environment being conducive to success or failure. Johnson had his biggest success as a member of the Bengals, most notable an 11.5 sack season in 2012.
Johnson cost himself a lot of money because of his lack of production in Tampa. Perhaps this move back to Ohio also will relight his fire and serve as a motivational wake up call for the seventh year pro. He and Geno Atkins being paired up could pay dividends for both their individual stat lines and the defensive outlook for the Bengals as a whole.
The days of Trent Cole being a double digit sack artist will be left back in Philly as the longtime Eagle flew the coop and joined the championship-poised Colts. Cole will try to improve an Indianapolis defense that needs to pull up its boot straps to keep up with Andrew Luck and the high flying offense.
Cole might not wreak the havoc in the backfield he has in years past, but he has shown consistent ability to still get to the QB. His versatility will extend his career for a few years and the Colts are smart to take advantage of his pursuit of that elusive ring. He may end up being nothing more than a situational pass rusher, but could be good for 7-9 sacks if the offense jumps on teams and gives him more opportunities.
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