They played solid football, found a way to go on a great win streak and earned a bye in the playoffs as the second seed in the NFC. There is also no doubt that they would like to repeat that feat again. However, if Carolina is going to try and make another Super Bowl run in the 2014 season, it is going to start with keeping the stellar defense together.
More specifically, they need to keep Greg Hardy. Carolina, as strong as they were, had a less than optimal offense, and got many of their wins on the backs of an exceptional defense that hounded quarterbacks and led the league in defensive scoring. Among that crew of tacklers stormed Hardy, who had a career-high 15 sacks and was the anchor that led the ferocious Panthers line.
“The Kraken”, as Hardy is affectionately called by fans, is a superstar defensive player who also happens to fall into free agency this offseason.
It would seem absurd that Carolina would let somebody so key to their defensive plan and play style slip out of their fingers, but GM Dave Gettleman has stated that, due to budget restraints, the Panthers might have to let Hardy go.
This would be a huge mistake on many levels. While Carolina does need to address its problems on the offensive side of the ball, it cannot afford to lose defensive players in the process. It is in the middle of trying to build a franchise team, and the first step of a solid franchise is keeping team strengths in tact while improving the weaker parts.
Losing Hardy would not just be a blow against the defense, but it would also be a step back in the Panthers’ quest to become kings of the NFC.