Cowboys: Is Greg Hardy Worth it?

Dec 27, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (76) before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (76) before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

Maligned defensive linemen, Greg Hardy, has brought more than just sacks to the Dallas Cowboys this season. Is Greg Hardy worth it?

When reviewing the 2015 season, one thing is clear – Greg Hardy was a good player. His six sacks on the season make him the second most effective pass-rusher on last season’s sack-starved Dallas Cowboys. Hardy was valuable as a defensive end, as well as a defensive tackle, and was oftentimes the player opponents focused on in their blocking assignments.

But because no Greg Hardy discussion can ignore his off-the-field and locker room behavior, all things must be considered when evaluating the 27-year-old pass-rusher. We look at it all here…

First of all, we must all recognize that Greg Hardy brings with him baggage. He is the poster kid for domestic violence in the NFL, and that’s not in a good way. Because of that, he cannot be judged by his performance alone. His performance is a big part (or else he wouldn’t have been signed in the first place), but the Cowboys must consider his past and present public life, and his locker room impact as well.

And that’s where it gets tricky.

The name “Greg Hardy” invokes strong feelings in even the most casual of NFL fan. After a well-publicized domestic violence incident that led to a guilty verdict, an appeal, a settlement, , a not guilty, and an expungement, there aren’t many people who don’t know the name “Greg Hardy” these day.

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Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys, never ones to shy from controversy, were willing to look past Hardy’s ugly past and sign the former Pro Bowl sack artist to an expensive, but risk-free deal in 2015. With Greg Hardy now entering free agency, the Dallas Cowboys must decide if they want to re-up and re-sign or if they are ready to move on.

Contrary to popular belief, Greg Hardy’s on-the-field performance was strong. He had a fall-off in sack production later in the season that many want to focus on, but he was still a force. Watching his film each week, it was clear he was a gifted pass rusher and the lack of statistics in the second half were a little misleading.

"“If you were to say, ‘OK, Greg had six sacks in 12 games, would you have expected more than that?’ The answer to that question is probably yes,” Stephen Jones said in an interview with The Ticket. “But at the same time, he affects other players on the defensive line.”"

What Stephen Jones was alluding to was that, while ½ a sack per game average is less than the Cowboys were hoping for, he was able to command enough attention so his teammates could see more opportunities.

The thing is – a ½ sack per game average is really pretty good. Especially for a player who hadn’t played in over a year. I’m not sure how lofty Stephen’s expectations were but to expect Hardy to jump right into being a sack-per-game player seems unrealistic.

As for the second part of what Stephen said, it’s true, when Hardy’s sack production dropped off a cliff, Demarcus Lawrence’s sack production exploded. That really did happen and it wasn’t just coincidence. Teams were just double-teaming Hardy more.

As I said before in defense of his play, Hardy looked strong down the stretch, no matter what the stats say. He had the strength and effort that worked so well for him earlier in the season. His technique did unexplainably get sloppy and his second effort moves disappeared at times, but upon snap, he still looked the part.

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Greg Hardy wasn’t a beast but he wasn’t a bum either. In this all or nothing world, Greg Hardy fit somewhere in the middle. He logged heavy snaps and made some plays. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 26th best 43 DE. Not too shabby all things considered.

Was he worth the contract?

Probably not. He was good, but not $8.8 million good.

Was he worth the headaches?

That’s where things get interesting…

Instead of diving into all of the specifics of the domestic violence situation, let’s just admit they exist, and they are bad PR for both him and the Cowboys.

Greg Hardy Throwback Column: The Devil is in the Details

The Cowboys took a lot of heat for signing Hardy and they took even more heat when the pictures came out (I still maintain that it’s truly sad so many people only became upset because they saw pictures. That’s terrible for abused people who don’t have picture to show everyone, but I digress…). Comparatively speaking, re-signing Hardy would be a PR cakewalk since most the public outrage has already been absorbed.

Now we hear there’s even more problems to Greg Hardy. Problems that go beyond his production and sorted past.

According to DMN’s Brandon George, teammates “began to sour on him late in the season.” Hardy was often late to team meetings but never saw a decrease in playing time. It appeared Hardy was operating on a different set of rules and even his early supporters began to grow tired.

Greg Hardy is a difficult man in multiple ways. He may be difficult to block, but he’s also difficult to like. If you interviewed or watched his interviews, you were witness to some very unlikeable moments. Hardy was immature, combative, rude, and intimidating.

“For the right price” is a phrase uttered by every front office in professional sports. Could Greg Hardy be worth bringing back for the right price?

Sure, but the Dallas Cowboys will need to be patient to let the market set his price. That means letting Hardy shop around. Many questioned whether the Cowboys needed to spend so much on Hardy last year. With no real bidding war, Hardy signed a pretty nice deal.

If the Cowboys can lower his price from last season on another low-risk deal, his on-the-field performance more than justifies it. But at the same time, his unlikability in the media, locker room, and general public may be too much to overcome – at any cost.

One thing is clear, a knee-jerk re-signing before free agency begins is the worst way the Cowboys can handle it. It would effectively condone his questionable behavior as a Cowboy and encourage it even more so down the road.

Check out: A Case For Keeping Greg Hardy

The Cowboys need to let him test free agency because he’s only worth it for the right price – and he needs to know that.

Next: Five Cowboys Who May Be Cut

The question the Cowboys must ask themselves this offseason is whether they need to bring him back. The Cowboys have several young players capable of stepping up and carrying the load but with no truly proven veteran presence, that may be too big of a gamble for the Cowboys to take.